Jobless claims fall to 391,000

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In another sign that the job market is slowly recovering, the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week.

There were 391,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Feb. 19, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was down 22,000 from the week before, and better than the 410,000 claims economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected.

The numbers point to the same trend economists have been speaking about for months: The job market is improving, but at a snails pace.

"It's clear that layoffs are trending down," said Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wells Fargo. "But there's been little evidence of hiring."

The weekly figure has hovered close to the 400,000 level since December, but is gradually heading lower overall. Economists look to the 4-week moving average to smooth out the volatility of week-to-week bumps.

The 4-week moving average fell to 402,000 from the previous week's revised average of 418,500.

While that's a sign of improvement, uprisings in the Middle East could halt the job market's progress, Vitner said.

"The situation in the Middle East is still intensifying," he said. "It affects the overall psychology of business, because we know higher energy prices lead to less economic growth, lower consumer spending and ultimately, cut into corporate earnings and hiring decisions."

Meanwhile, continuing claims -- which include people filing for the second week of benefits or more -- fell by 54,750 to 3,790,000 in the week ended Feb. 12, the most recent week available. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,279.74 13.75 0.08%
Nasdaq 4,579.79 -13.64 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,010.40 -0.96 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.59 -0.04 -1.60%
Data as of 8:13am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Yahoo! Inc 40.93 -1.16 -2.74%
Microsoft Corp 47.52 0.84 1.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.95 -0.09 -0.53%
Oracle Corp 39.80 -1.75 -4.21%
Facebook Inc 77.91 0.91 1.18%
Data as of Sep 19

Sections

The automaker is recalling Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impalas because of a problem with the electronic parking brake arm. More

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given more money than many western nations. More

It's really good to be Larry Ellison. The Oracle founder is stepping down as CEO, so maybe he'll have more time to enjoy his glamorous life. More

As Occupy Wall Street goes on its debt-abolishing tear, thousands of people across the country are begging them to forgive their loans. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.