NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of people filing for ongoing unemployment insurance plummeted by 255,000 to the lowest level since December 2008, according to government figures released Thursday.
According to a Labor Department report, 4,462,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended May 29, the latest week available. That's down more than a quarter-million from the previous week.
"People are just falling off the rolls here," said Steve Stahler, president of The Stahler Group. "This isn't good news."
Continuing claims reflect people who file each week after their initial claim until the end of their standard benefits, which usually last 26 weeks. The figures do not include those who have moved to state or federal extensions, nor people who have exhausted their benefits.
"We saw from the last jobs report that the private sector isn't hiring," Stahler said.
Last week a government report showed employers added 431,000 jobs in May -- but 411,000 of those were temporary Census positions.
The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims was 4,617,500, a decrease of 49,250 from the previous week. Moving averages aim to smooth out week-by-week volatility.
Initial claims: Meanwhile, the number of first-time filers for unemployment insurance fell slightly last week.
There were 456,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended June 5, down 3,000 from an upwardly revised 459,000 the previous week.
A consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected 450,000 new claims for the week.
The 4-week moving average of initial claims was 463,000, up 2,500 from the previous week.
Outlook: Initial claims have been "marooned between 450,000 and 475,000," noted Tim Quinlan, economist at Wells Fargo.
"I don't see anything like mass hiring announcements, none of those signals we would look to for improvement," Quinlan added.
Initial claims figures will probably be range-bound for the next several months, Quinlan said, as the unemployment rate "treads water."
State-by-state data: Two states said initial claims fell by more than 1,000 for the week ended May 29, the most recent data available.
Claims in Wisconsin fell by 1,628, which a state-supplied comment attributed to fewer layoffs in the construction, trade, service and manufacturing industries. Texas said new claims fell by 1,063.
Fast food workers across the country walked off the job Thursday. But unions and other organizations compensated them for lost wages. More
A spy virus stole millions of passwords. Here's how to keep your password secure. More
As usual, Congress has left all the year's major fiscal decisions to the last minute. More