Initial jobless claims climbed by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 320,000 in the period of March 9 to March 15, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s less than the 325,000 estimate of economists.
The average of new claims over the past month, usually a more reliable gauge than the weekly number, dipped 3,500 to 327,000, marking the lowest level since the end of November.
The number of people seeking benefits each week is seen as a good gauge of how many layoffs are occurring in the economy. The latest claims report took place during the survey week used by Labor to calculate monthly employment growth for March, suggesting that job creation could end higher compared to the first two months of the year. A lower claims figure typically correlates with higher monthly job growth.
Still, job creation has slowed markedly since last November, though unusually harsh winter weather has been a major drag on employment. Many economists believe there will be a snapback in hiring in the spring as the weather warms.