Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s claims figure was revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 360,000.
A Labor Department analyst said claims for Illinois and snowstorm-hit Connecticut had been estimated. Nevertheless, because most claims are filed online, the blizzard that slammed the East Coast appeared to have little effect on the broader claims data, he said.
While companies are no longer aggressively laying off workers, they appear to be in no hurry to step-up hiring against the backdrop of still lackluster demand.
The economy has struggled to grow much more than 2 percent since the 2007-09 recession ended.
Job gains averaged 181,000 per month in 2012, far less than the at least 250,000 that economists say is needed to significantly reduce the ranks of unemployed.
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