A recent survey taken by Thomson Reuters revealed that jobless benefits claims are starting to fall – albeit slowly. The statistics mark the fourth straight week that claims have begun to fall, with economists determining the number to be around 440,000.

Regardless, jobless claims haven’t fallen as quickly as many economists would like. After dropping steadily last year from a peak of 651,000, they have fluctuated at around 450,000 in 2010; claims will need to fall below 425,000 to signal sustained job growth.

Economists are interested in watching the weekly claims for unemployment, particularly new ones, because it serves as a measure of the pace of layoffs and the willingness of companies to hire new workers.

Analysts reported that employers added 290,000 jobs in April, the largest gain in four years. Many are taking it as positive sign that companies are feeling more confident in the economic recovery to add new employees. However, as it is yet unknown, the jobless claims figures will offer more insight as to whether that trend will continue.

Over the span of the recession, companies cut more than 8 million jobs; much more hiring is needed to compensate for the losses. The unemployment rate rose last month to 9.9 percent as the new jobs did not offset the more than 800,000 people that started the job searches, such as 2010 college graduates.

Overall, the economy expanded at a 3.2 percent pace in the January-to-March quarter, the third straight quarter of growth. As time passes and employers continue to add jobs and hire new employees, many hope that the job market will eventually return to normal.