A job seeker, right, talks with an Illinois Valley Community College career… (Daniel Acker / Bloomberg )
WASHINGTON -- First-time jobless claims dropped significantly last week to below the 350,000 level, reversing a sharp rise the previous week.
There were 346,000 people who filed initial claims for unemployment benefits in the week that ended Saturday, down from the previous week's revised figure of 388,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists say weekly claims below 350,000 indicate a moderately growing labor market.
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Claims had been below that level for four out of five weeks before unexpectedly spiking in the week that ended March 30.
Analysts speculated that the increase could have been related to problems with the Labor Department's seasonal adjustment around the Easter holiday and school spring breaks.
The sharp increase to the highest level in four months raised alarms because it came as other economic indicators showed a slowdown in economic growth.
On Friday, the government reported that the economy added just 88,000 net new jobs in March, the worst showing since June.
Economists expected jobless claims to drop back down last week, and they fell more than forecast. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for 360,000 claims.
The less volatile four-week average increased last week to 358,000, up 3,000 from the previous week.
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