A bit of good news for the labor market: First-time applications for state unemployment benefits dropped 20,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 654,000 in the week ending April 4, the Labor Department said Thursday. The week's reading is still up 83 percent, however, from the same period time last year. "The small amount of good news is that it appears as though the trend in claims over the last eight weeks has leveled off, but there is nothing here to suggest that the drop in employment is anywhere near the bottom," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh, according to a Reuters report. Continuing claims portray the on-going turmoil in the workforce, where companies continue to cut costs, depleting jobs and potential job openings. The number of people still on the benefits roll this week after collecting at least one week of aid, set another new record, gaining 95,000 to a whopping 5.84 million. The four week moving average of initial claims, which can sometimes smooth volatiliy, fell 750 to 657,250 claims. The insured unemployment rate -- the proportion of covered workers who are receiving benefits -- climbed 4.4 percent, marking the highest level since April of 1983. The largest increases in initial clains were seen in Kentucky -- where 5,029 people filed a claim in the week ending March 21 -- Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee. The largest decreases were seen in California -- where initial claims dropped 7,057 -- Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas and Minnesota. 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. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade