The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people seeking initial unemployment claims fell 5,000 last week to 359,000--the lowest since April 2008--a strong indicator that the U.S.'s labor market is improving. As the AP explains, that's almost 20,000 under the magic number of 375,000 and today's figures are well under the numbers from one year ago when the labor department saw 401,000 new claims. "When unemployment benefit applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. The decline has coincided with the best three months of hiring in two years," writes the AP's Christopher S. Rugaber. Bloomberg's Lorraine Woellert echoes that response, "The pace of employment has gained momentum in the past three months, helping drive income growth that may ease the strain of higher gasoline prices." The U.S. Labor Department's four-week moving average, which is seen as a more stable number, was at 365,000, a decrease of 3,500 from the previous week's revised average-which is still under that magic 375,000 benchmark.
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