Jobless claims for the week ending March 24 fell by 5,000 filings to 359,000 initial unemployment claims, according to the Department of Labor.

That is down from a revised figure of 364,000 a week earlier. The Labor Department initially estimated 348,000 new claims for that period, a four-year low.

Analysts polled by Econoday expected initial jobless claims to drop to 350,000 in the data released Thursday morning.

The four-week moving average, a more stable measure, dipped by 3,500 to 365,000 from the week prior.

The Labor Department said the total number of people claiming benefits for the period ending March 10 hit 7.15 million, down by 131,488 filings from a week earlier.

By state, claims rose the most in Florida for the week ending March 17, up roughly 1,900. New York saw the sharpest decline, down 3,100.

Capital Economics, in a research note, said its models suggest 200,000 jobs were added to payrolls in March, which would make it the fourth straight month jobs grew by at least 200,000. The Labor Department releases its March employment data April 6.

While the news hit the market with a dose of optimism, housing analysts are cautious about viewing the gains in too positive of a light. 

“Because these numbers are as fuzzy as they are, I’m more interested in tracking the number of jobs created on a monthly basis,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of RealtyTrac.”The country has averaged about 245,000 new jobs a month for the past three months, which is above the minimum threshold of 200,000 new jobs a month most analysts feel is necessary to get the economy moving in the right direction. If we can sustain that kind of growth, and if the jobs are decent paying jobs, we should start to see consumer confidence improve, which will have a direct impact on the housing market.”

Sharga added, “Don’t be surprised to see unemployment rates spike temporarily, however, even if job creation continues. This will paradoxically be a good omen, since it suggests people are coming back into the job pool and looking for work again.”

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