A glimpse of hope for the nation's labor market: First-time applications for state unemployment benefits dropped 53,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 610,000 in the week ending April 11, the Labor Department said today, marking the lowest level of first-time claims in nearly three months. Still, the total number of people who remained on benefits roll in the reported week after collecting at least one week of aid, set another new record, gaining 172,000 to 6.02 million -- highlighting the on-going struggles of finding a job in the current economy, where companies continue to cut costs, depleting jobs and potential job openings. The insured unemployment rate for the reported week -- the proportion of covered workers who are receiving benefits -- climbed to 4.4%, the highest level since January of 1993. Nonetheless, the four week moving average of initial claims, which typically smooths any volatility in employment trends, fell by 8,500 to 651,000 -- the lowest since March 21. “There’s a real possibility this could be a turning point,” said James O’Sullivan, senior economist at UBS Securities LLC, according to Bloomberg. “We’ve seen some fading of weakness in consumer spending. The logical next step would be some fading of weakness in the labor market.” The largest increases in initial claims were seen in Michigan -- where 5,408 people filed a claim in the week ending April 4 -- Missouri, Texas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The largest decreases were seen in California -- where initial claims dropped 4,708 -- Ohio, Alabama, Florida and Wisconsin. Write to Kelly Curran at kelly.curran@housingwire.com. Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments.