Jobless Claims Drop To Near 4-Year Low - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Jobless Claims Drop To Near 4-Year Low

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to a near four-year low, suggesting the labor market recovery was gaining steam.

Other government data on Thursday also pointed to sustained momentum in the economy, with builders breaking more ground on new residential projects in January and little signs of a pick-up in inflation pressures.

"The job market is getting better and that's really key. We're still in the early innings of this but I'm glad to see another data point that adds to the picture of an improving economy," said Kevin Caron, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, the Labor Department said, the lowest level since March 2008.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 365,000. The four-week moving average for new claims, seen as a better measure of labor market trends, fell 1,750 to 365,250 - the lowest since April 2008.

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said housing starts rose 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 699,000 units last month, beating economists' expectations for a 675,000-unit pace.

Starts were boosted by multi-unit buildings, reflecting growing demand for rental apartments as Americans move away from homeownership. Permits for future home construction rose 0.7 percent to a 676,000-unit pace in January.

U.S. stock index futures and crude oil futures pared losses after the data. The dollar rose against the yen, and U.S. Treasuries prices rose modestly. click here to read the full article

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