- Congressman: McAuliffe victory means gun control a winning message
- Clinton aide admits soliciting disgraced D.C. fundraiser; says actions were legal
- Joel Osteen church victimized in $600K theft
- Obama goes shopping at Gap as minimum-wage thanks
- N.J. woman charged after client dies from black-market butt injections
- CIA chief Brennan ‘determined’ to speak out more this year
- Reset? What reset? U.S.-Russia ties at worst since Cold War
- 9/11 terror recruiter released in Syrian prisoner swap
- D.C. elections board gives green light to marijuana legalization initiative
- Elephants can tell difference between human languages: study
U.S. unemployment aid applications hit 4-year low
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid fell to a four-year low last week, bolstering the view that the job market is strengthening.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications dropped 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000. That’s the lowest level since March 2008, just months into the Great Recession. The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, dipped to 355,000, matching a four-year low.
Applications have declined steadily since last fall. The drop has coincided with the best three months of hiring in two years. From December through February, employers added an average of 245,000 jobs per month. That’s pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years.
The report suggests that employers added a similar level of jobs this month. This week’s figures cover the same week that the Labor Department surveys companies about hiring in March. Applications are slightly lower this week than in February’s survey week, which points to more job growth.
Companies are hiring more because the economy is picking up. The economy grew at an annual rate of 3 percent in the final three months of last year. That rate was better than the 1.7 percent growth in the previous quarter.
There are other signs the economy is recovering steadily: Consumers are more confident and have stepped up spending, auto sales are rising, and even the battered housing market is showing signs of improving.
January and February made the best winter for sales of previously occupied homes in five years, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors. January sales were the most since May 2010, the final month that a federal tax credit for home buyers was available. Sales dipped in February but were still 13 percent higher than six months earlier.
Developers even are seeking to build more homes. Requests for permits to build single-family homes and apartments rose 5 percent last month. Those applications brought the annual rate for permits to the highest since October 2008, though they are still running at about half the rate of a healthy market.
The number of people receiving unemployment aid fell. Nearly 7.3 million people received benefits in the week ending March 3, the latest data available. That level is about 140,000 fewer than the previous week.
One concern is that rising gas prices will force consumers to cut back on discretionary spending and, thus, could weigh on economic growth and slow hiring. The Federal Reserve says it expects oil and gas prices to boost inflation temporarily but predicts that longer-term inflation should remain stable.
The job market still has a way to go to fully recover from the Great Recession. More than 12.8 million people remain unemployed, and the economy still has 5 million fewer jobs than before the downturn.
But the more robust job market has caused some so-called “discouraged workers” to start looking again. The workforce rose by nearly a half-million in February.
TWT Video Picks
An America drowning in red ink is the land of the free no more
- Inside the Beltway: A new interest in Rahm Emanuel for 2016?
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- David Jolly wins in Florida, GOP keeps swing district seat
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Brennan: Russia 'absolutely' could invade eastern Ukraine
- House Democrats trying to force unemployment insurance vote
- White House touts leadership in handling of crisis in Ukraine, despite lack of results
- FCC targets black conservative in TV station fight
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to 'man up' in horse carriage fight
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again