Initial claims for unemployment drop again, consistent with another 200,000 new jobs added in March

03/22/2012 1:20 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Initial claims for unemployment fell to 348,000 for the week ended March 17 from 353,000 for the prior week. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected a drop to 350,000.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure that is a better indication of the trend in unemployment than the weekly number, fell to 355,000 from 356,250. The four-week moving average began 2012 at 382,500.

This week's initial claims survey period includes the 12th of the month when the Labor Department conducts its survey of employers to calculate the monthly jobs growth. Today’s initial claims number is consistent with a monthly gain of 200,000 jobs or more. That kind of jobs growth would make March the fourth consecutive month with better than 200,000 net jobs added to the economy. (The March jobs numbers are scheduled for release on April 6.)

Continuing claims for unemployment fell by 9,000 in the week ended March 10 to 3.35 million. The number of long-term unemployed who have used up their regular unemployment benefits and are receiving emergency and extended benefits dropped by 16,000 to 3.31 million in the week ended March 3. (Unemployed workers on extended benefits don’t get counted in the regular continuing claims figure.)

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