Jobless Line Shortest in Three Months, but Productivity Slowed

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/ Source: Reuters

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected and hit a three-month low last week, a sign of strength in a labor market that has been hobbled by severe weather.

Separately, the government sharply revised down non-farm productivity for the fourth quarter, mirroring the economy's slow growth pace in the same period.

Valera Kulow speaks with job seeker Monic Spencer during a career fair in Dallas. Unemployment claims fell to their lowest in three months last week.LM Otero / AP

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was the lowest level since the end of November and the drop more than unwound the prior week's rise.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits falling to 338,000 in the week ended March 1.

The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, slipped 2,000 to 336,500.

Productivity rose at a 1.8 percent annual rate instead of the previously reported 3.2 percent pace, the Labor Department said. Productivity, which measures hourly output per worker increased at a 3.5 percent pace in the third quarter.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected fourth-quarter productivity would be revised down to a 2.5 percent rate.

- Reuters