The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in four years, strengthening evidence that our job market continues to improve. The Department of Labor also confirmed that the U.S. economy grew by 3% in the fourth quarter of 2011. From December through February, businesses added an average of 245,000 jobs per month. This has caused the unemployment rate to drop to 8.3 percent, the lowest level in three years.
According to the Labor Department the number of people applying for weekly unemployment benefits fell by 5,000, to a seasonally adjusted 359,000. This marks the lowest number of applicants since April 2008.
The four-week average of jobless claims, which is a less precarious metric, declined to 365,000 — the fewest for that measure since May 2008.
When applications for unemployment benefits decrease in a consistent trend below 375,000, it is generally a sign that hiring is sufficiently robust to bring down the unemployment rate. The current decline has coincided with the best three-months of hiring in over two years.
Many economists predict yet another strong month of hiring in March.
In assessing jobless claims, Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics said “The trend remains unambiguously downwards.” While he admitted that the rate of decline was slowing, he pointed out that it was “still consistent with robust, sustained payroll gains.”
In Thursday’s assessment of the October-December quarter, the Commerce Department reported no change. The 3 percent annual rate remained the highest since spring 2010. Still, economists expect growth has probably slowed to 2 percent or less in the current quarter.
Businesses have been restocking their inventories at a slower rate, and shipping a lower amount of durable manufactured goods. In addition, Europe’s debt crisis and slowed growth in Asia have dampened demand for American exports.
Yet despite promising trends overall, Washington State residents still face troubling rates of unemployment, as well as difficulties in the workplace such as wrongful termination, workplace discrimination, trouble collecting workers compensation benefits, and the complexity of handling a Labor & Industries Claim (including, for many, the need to appeal a rejected L&I claim). Since a large number of injured workers do not fully understand their rights, they are taken advantage of when they attend an L&I Independent Medical Exam. If you need help with any of these issues, contact an L&I Lawyer or a Seattle Employment Attorney at Emery Reddy today.