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Jobless claims in the US fall to a 4-year low, Labor Department reports

The Labor Department said on Thursday that weekly applications for jobless benefits dropped by 5,000, to a seasonally adjusted 348,000.

Jobless numbers 220312Enlarge
Job seekers attend a career fair in midtown Manhattan on February 6, 2012 in New York City. In further signs that the US economy is recovering, the government reported Friday that 243,000 jobs were created last month. The unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent, its lowest level in three years. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

The jobless claims in the US fell to a 4-year low last week, according to Labor Department statistics announced on Thursday. 

Figures from the Labor Department showed that weekly applications for jobless benefits decreased by 5,000 to 348,000 in the week that ended March 17, the lowest since March 2008, just months into the recession, the New York Times reported

The number of claims filed is a good economic indicator of whether layoffs are rising or falling, MarketWatch reported. Economists had initially estimated claims would rise to 353,000, according to MarketWatch, but the number of claims was lower than expected. 

More from GlobalPost: Poll: Americans now most optimistic on jobs since 2008

"There is more going on here than merely the benefits of a mild winter. We believe that stronger job creation will be sustained throughout 2012," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York, according to Reuters

The economy grew at an annual rate of 3 percent in the final three months of last year, up from 1.8 percent rate in the previous quarter, according to the Times. Economists expect growth will slow in the current quarter to below 2.5 percent, despite an increase in companies' hiring. 

34 percent of respondents to Bloomberg’s monthly consumer expectations survey said they believed the economy was improving, the largest vote of confidence since January 2004, Bloomberg Businessweek reported

However, long-term unemployment remains a significant issue in the US, Reuters reported. About 43 percent of the 12.8 million jobless Americans in February had been unemployed for over six months.

7.28 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during the week that ended March 3, the latest week for which data is available, Reuters reported. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120322/jobless-claims-us-fall-4-year-low