Initial Jobless Applications Hover Near Four-Year Lows

Unemployment applications hover near low levelsWASHINGTON -- Slightly more people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week. But the overall level stayed low enough to suggest the job market is strengthening.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000.

The four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, remained at roughly 355,000. That's essentially unchanged from last week's level, which was the lowest in four years.

"We are not concerned by the modest rise in claims as the downtrend remains firmly in place," Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said in a note to clients.

Applications have fallen 14 percent since October. When applications fall below 375,000, that generally signals hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate. The steady decline has coincided with three months of big hiring gains.

The economy has added an average of 200,000 net jobs per month from November through January. That has helped lower the unemployment rate for five straight months to 8.3 percent. Economists predict that more than 200,000 net jobs were added in February, too.

The government will issue its February jobs report on Friday.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits also declined to just below 7.4 million in the week ended Feb. 18, the latest data available. That's down from 7.5 million in the previous week.

Other reports Wednesday reinforced the brighter hiring outlook.

Payroll provider ADP said companies added a net gain of 216,000 jobs in February, above January's gain. The ADP report doesn't include government agencies, which have been cutting jobs.

And a meager gain in worker productivity at the end of last year could also persuade employers to beef up staffing. It suggests companies will have to keep hiring steadily to meet their customers' rising demand.

Better economic growth is spurring more job creation. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3 percent in the final three months of last year, the government said last week.

Most economists expect growth will slow in the current quarter because companies won't need to rebuild their stockpiles of goods as much as they did last winter. That means factories won't need to produce as much.

But growth should improve later in the year. The economy is likely to expand at a 2.5 percent pace this year, according to a survey of economists by The Associated Press. That would be better than last year's 1.7 percent rise.

Even so, the job market has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the damage of the Great Recession. Nearly 13 million people remain unemployed, and 8.3 percent unemployment is painfully high.

One reason the unemployment rate has fallen is that many people have given up looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching for a job.

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cpo1514

Lots of 99 week folks off unenjoyment are now on food stamps.... that must explain the 1 out of 7 on Obama Food Stamps Increase from 1 out of 25 on assistance???? Also... 2.5 million FEWER employed since the Occupant took the White House over. These folks are just off the radar....

March 09 2012 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
cpo1514

Lots of 99 week folks off unenjoyment are now on food stamps.... that must explain the 1 out of 7 on Obama Food Stamps Increase from 1 out of 25 on assistance???? Also... 2.5 million FEWER employed since the Occupant took the White House over. These folks are just off the radar....

March 09 2012 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
joey

Keep fudging them numbers for NOBAMA.......Gone 2012...........wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!

March 09 2012 at 9:13 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bassmnsc

Dont everybody get excited.Alot of people are out of benifits and are not counted.Its election year.As for the Gas prices the republicans still think if you give a rich man a tax break they will pass it on.The oil companies are reporting record profits and the republicans want to give them more money.I havent heard anybody say anything about investigating the oil companies for price gouching and holding them responsible.The price of gas will throw the economy into a downward swirl and everything will go with it

March 08 2012 at 10:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bassmnsc's comment
cpo1514

bassmc.... 1) Carl Levin (D_ MI Senate) only investigates the oil companies when Bush is in office. 2) Record profits... by dollars alone the actual number is up. By ROI (return on investment) the percentage is the same. 3) When folks have money to spend they spend- like the Bush $1,800 check in 2008. This actually created jobs and kept unenjoyment below 7%. 4) Only Pelosi (D-House - CA) can be supported by the uneducated press to never question that unemployment checks actually stimulate the economy. Vote for a Lib & it will get worse!!!! OMG.... Obama Must Go !!!! (and take a boatload of uneducated Marxist Czars with him)

March 09 2012 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bassmnsc

Dont everybody get excited.Alot of people are out of benifits and are not counted.Its election year.As for the Gas prices the republicans still think if you give a rich man a tax break they will pass it on.The oil companies are reporting record profits and the republicans want to give them more money.I havent heard anybody say anything about investigating the oil companies for price gouching and holding them responsible.The price of gas will throw the economy into a downward swirl and everything will go with it

March 08 2012 at 10:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jdykbpl45

Got work? Benefits expired? No longer counted? Bought gas lately? Thank you Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Geithner, and
Bernake.

March 08 2012 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jdykbpl45

Got work? Benefits expired? No longer counted? Bought gas lately? Thank you Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Geithner, and
Bernake.

March 08 2012 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
knkdnsr

This is only the beginning. this will continue as long as gas prices rise and stay high. The more gas costs the less people have to spend and the less they travel . The price of gas back in 288 was one of the main issues that led to all the jobs being lost. The cost of everything we purchase is geared around oil.

March 08 2012 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
democracks0

HUFFY FORGOT TO MENTION THAT JOBLESS CLAIMS WENT UP AGAIN THIS WEEK BY 8000. THE OBAMA CHEER LEADERS ARE HARD AT WORK TRYING DESPERATELY TO PAINT A PRETTY PICTURE. UNEMPLOYMENT IS REALLY AT 11%

March 08 2012 at 1:09 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
willowbrook123

Bye Bye Obahma

March 08 2012 at 10:25 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply