Jobless Claims Hold Steady

Claims for unemployment benefits by the newly-laid off held steady last week at 351,000, the Labor Department announced.

That’s still a four-year low.

This caused the four-week moving average, which smooths out fluctuations, to drop 7,000 to 359,000.

“It’s broadly in line with recent U.S. data showing a gradually improving economic backdrop,” Omer Esiner, a market analyst, told Reuters.

For the week ended Feb. 4, the most recent week data were available, 7.5 million people were collecting some form of unemployment assistance, a decrease of 178,000 from the prior week and more than 1.5 million fewer people than a year ago.

That included 3.9 million receiving regular unemployment benefits, 113,000 fewer than the previous week, and 2.9 million on emergency unemployment compensation, an 83,000 decrease from the prior week.