New claims for unemployment benefits continued their remarkable recent decline, with today’s report that claims in the latest week fell again. The Labor Department reported that claims dropped to a better-than-expected 348,000 in the week, seasonally adjusted. That’s 13,000 fewer than during the previous week.
This marks the third consecutive week that initial jobless claims have fallen. And it provides yet another hopeful sign that employment in the U.S. is continuing to heal, however slowly, from the intense damage inflicted during the Great Recession. The overall unemployment rate has been grinding lower over the past several months, hitting 8.3% for January.
The latest weekly report on new claims raises hope that February can continue this trend. The Associated Press reports that Jeremy Lawson, a senior economist at BNP Paribas, thinks the weekly claims point to another month of strong hiring. “Most indicators are pointing in the same direction: a healthy job market,” Lawson told the AP, which added “The additional jobs will provide more income for consumers and support greater spending, an importance source of growth.”
The Labor Department also said the four-week moving average was 365,250, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 367,000. The drop in the four-week average is also a good sign for the labor market because it’s considered a less volatile measure than the weekly reports, which can be distorted in either direction by one-time events.