WASHINGTON – Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the United States fell by 20,000 last week to 268,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The total was just slightly above the 15-year low of 267,000 registered at the end of January.
The rolling four-week average of first-time claims, a more reliable indicator of trends in the labor market, fell by 14,750 to 285,500, the lowest level since last November.
The four-week average has been below or only slightly above 300,000 since last September, pointing to recovery in the U.S. labor market.
Official unemployment in the United States declined by two-tenths of a percentage point in February to 5.5 percent, the lowest level since 2008.
The world’s largest economy added more than 1 million jobs in November-January, the best quarterly performance since 1997, and the ranks of employed people have climbed by 3.3 million over the last year.
The March unemployment report is due Friday and most analysts estimate that roughly 240,000 new jobs were created last month, down from 295,000 in February.