WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims dropped again last week, to 332,000, as the labor market showed continued signs of improvement despite higher taxes and looming federal budget cuts.
The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time was down 10,000 from the previous week's revised figure, and nearly matched the four-year low of 330,000 claims reached in January, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Analysts had expected claims to rise last week to 350,000.
The four-week average, which smoothes out weekly ups and downs, also decreased. The average was 346,750, a decrease of 2,750 from the previous week.
Economists say first-time claims below 350,000 a week indicate moderate growth in jobs.
The new figures build off positive economic data recently and point to a strengthening recovery.
Last week, the government reported stronger than expected job growth in February. The economy added 236,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7%, a four-year low.