US jobless claims drop to 3-month low

First-time claims for US unemployment benefits fell last week to a three-month low but remained little changed from a year ago, according to official data released Thursday.

A sign posted on a shopfront window offers employment opportunity to happy and creative people in this October 22, 2013 file photo in Pasadena, California

Initial jobless claims totaled 323,000 in the week ending March 1, a decline of 26,000 from the prior week's revised reading of 349,000, the Labor Department said.

It was the lowest level of claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, since the last week of November.

The Labor Department cited no particular factor driving the fall in claims, which was larger than analysts expected. The consensus was for claims to fall to 338,000.

The four-week moving average of claims, which helps to smooth week-over-week volatility, fell by 2,000 to 336,500.

A year ago, the moving average was 350,500.

"We need to see more than just one week's data to confirm that the underlying trend in claims remains about flat behind all the weather-induced noise," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

The claims report came ahead of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report due Friday.

Analysts estimate net job creation picked up to 163,000 in February after a mere 113,000 in January. The unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 6.6 percent.

About the author

columnist
Writer: AFP
Position: News agency