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Initial unemployment claims dropped last week to lowest level since 2008

March 3, 2011 |  6:28 am

Initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped last week to 368,000, the lowest level since May 2008, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

La-fi-jobless-claims04 The decrease is another sign that the recovery might finally be producing sustained, if moderate, job growth. It comes ahead of Friday's jobs report, which economists expect will show the economy created about 200,000 new jobs in February.

The number of people filing each week for unemployment has been inching down in recent months and fell by 20,000 last week. It now is approaching the low-300,000 level that economists say is necessary to start making significant inroads into the nation's 9% jobless rate.

There were nearly 100,000 more initial unemployment claims -- 466,000 -- during the same week last year. During the depths of the recession, more than 600,000 people were filing new claims for unemployment insurance each week.

The seasonally adjusted weekly figure can be somewhat volatile, affected by weather and other short-term factors. But the four-week average for initial unemployment claims also dropped last week to 388,500 from the average of 401,250 released last week.

-- Jim Puzzanghera