U.S. Jobless Claims Are Lowest Since 2008

Source: AP / The New York Times

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to the lowest point in almost four years last week, the latest signal that the job market is steadily improving.

In other economic news, a rise in building permits suggested that the construction industry was growing confident that more buyers were ready to come off the sidelines, and the latest data on wholesale prices signaled that inflation remained largely in check.

The Labor Department said on Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000. It was the fourth drop in five weeks and the fewest number of claims since March 2008.

The four-week average, which smoothes out fluctuations in the weekly data, fell for the fifth-consecutive week to 365,250. The average has fallen nearly 13 percent in the past year.

The consistent decline indicates that companies are laying off fewer workers and that hiring is picking up. When applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

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