The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits fell sharply in the last week to their lowest level since February 2008, the Labor Dept. said Thursday, providing yet another sign that labor market is getting back on track.
In the week ending Saturday, applications for unemployment insurance payments fell 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000. The prior week's figure was revised upward to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would edge up to 374,000 last week.
The four-week moving average for new claims, a well-regarded measure of labor market trends, fell 11,500 to 364,000. That’s the highest level since late March.
Job gains are of great importance, because they lead to income growth, and that supports consumer spending, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
As well, President Barack Obama is sure to make note of the statistics as he seeks re-election on Nov. 6. Just as likely, Republican nominee Mitt Romney is likely to characterize them as not good enough.
September's jobs report showed that employers added 114,000 jobs in the month, and the unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent, the lowest it’s been since January 2009.