Unemployment benefit claims fall to four-year low

Posted at 8:57 AM, Mar 22, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-22 08:57:08-04

By Annalyn Censky

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits fell to a four-year low last week, hinting that strong job growth likely continued in March.

About 348,000 people filed for initial jobless claims in the week ended March 17, down from the previous week’s 353,000 claims, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Economists surveyed by had predicted the newly unemployed would file 355,000 claims.

Continuing claims also fell. About 3.35 million people filed for their second week of unemployment benefits or more in the week ended March 3, the most recent data available. That’s down 9,000 from the previous week.

Jobless claims are considered a key indicator of the job market’s strength. The number can be volatile from week to week, so economists often look to the four-week moving average as a broader gauge of the labor market’s health.

Lately, that figure has been on a gradual decline. It fell to 355,000, down 1,250 from the previous week.

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