The number of unemployment claims has been dropping in recent months, a potential indicator that the job market is recovering.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell again last week, offering further evidence that the U.S. job market seems to be improving.
Initial jobless claims dropped by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 332,000 in the week ended March 9, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
That improved performance was a surprise: economists surveyed by Reuters were expecting unemployment claims would rise by 8,000 to 350,000.
Last week’s decline comes after an upwardly revised 342,000 from the prior week, after the Department of Labor initially reported 340,000.
The four-week moving average, a preferred indicator for many economists because it smooths out volatility in new claims, dropped 2,750 to 346,750. This is the lowest figure seen in five-years, and it suggests the long-stagnant job market might be gaining traction.
“Overall, the recent labor market data signal at least steady, and potentially improving, job growth so far in 2013 despite the implementation of various forms of fiscal tightening,” Daniel Silver an economist with J.P.Morgan said in a research note on Thursday.
The latest report marks the third consecutive week of declining jobless claims.
Silver noted improvement in the labor market related to diminished layoffs and job losses as another indicator of potential economic recovery.
California, New York, Missouri and Kansas are among the states with the highest increases in new claims filed. States that saw the biggest decreases in claims are Massachusetts and North Carolina.
This drop in unemployment claims comes on the heels of last week’s news from the Labor Department that the national unemployment rate dipped to 7.7 in February from 7.9 in January. The new rate marks the lowest unemployment level since December 2008, when the U.S. economy was in a deep recession.