U.S. Employment Market Strengthening

Lowest Jobless Claims Since March 2008

U.S. Employment Market StrengtheningThe American jobs market appears to be strengthening, according to new data. The Labor Department announced Thursday that the number of people filing claims for jobless benefits averaged 346,750 over the past month, the lowest level since March 2008.

In a sign the positive trend could continue, the report indicated that first-time jobless claims fell to 332,000 in the week ended March 9. That's the fewest weekly claims since mid-January, beating the median forecast for the week of nearly 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. "This is better than we could have expected," Lou Crandall, chief economist for research firm Wrightston Icap, told Bloomberg News. "We're slowing the pace of layoffs, which is a good first step. Things appear to be improving."

As stocks shot higher last week, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index reached minus 31.6, the highest reading since April. For six consecutive months the index has increased, rising by almost six points. Earlier this month, the federal government released a report that showed that 236,000 jobs were created in February and that the unemployment rate had dropped from 7.9% to 7.7%.