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Labor Market Continues To Recover

WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, indicating the labor market is recovering.

Applications for jobless benefits fell 10,000 in the week ended April 2 to 382,000, the fewest since Feb. 26, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. Economists projected claims would be little changed at 385,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those collecting extended payments decreased.

Fewer firings along with further increases in headcount may help ensure that gains in consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy, are sustained. Unemployment that has declined four straight months supports the view of Federal Reserve policymakers that the job market is showing signs of healing.

“The improvement in the labor market is for real,” said Eric Green, chief market economist at TD Securities Inc. in New York. “Growth is on a steady upswing. Sales expectations are rising with more hiring plans.”

Estimates for first-time claims ranged from 373,000 to 400,000 in the Bloomberg survey of 44 economists. The Labor Department initially reported the prior week’s applications at 388,000.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 389,500 from 395,250.

The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits declined by 9,000 in the week ended March 26 to 3.72 million. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of workers receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who have used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments decreased by about 91,400 to 4.27 million in the week ended March 19.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the national jobless rate, held at 3 percent in the week ended March 26.

Thirty-three states and territories reported a decrease in claims, while 20 had an increase.