WASHINGTON – Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign of the job market appears to be increasingly secure for workers.
THE NUMBERS: Weekly applications for unemployment aid plunged 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dipped to 250,000.
Over the past year, the number of people collecting benefits had tumbled 7.2 percent to 2.03 million.
THE TAKEAWAY: U.S. workers face a lower risk of losing their jobs, since applications are a proxy for layoffs. The weekly figure has remained below 300,000, a level linked with job growth, for 109 weeks. That's the longest such stretch since 1970, when the U.S. population was much smaller.
KEY DRIVERS: The recovery from the Great Recession is nearly eight years old, with the unemployment rate down to a healthy 4.7 percent. Employers added an average of 237,000 jobs in January and February, a pickup from last year's average gains of 187,000, according to Labor Department figures.
The March jobs report to be released Friday is expected to show that employers added 178,000 jobs last month, according to a survey of economists by the data provider FactSet.
But there is the potential that hiring beats those expectations based off a private survey.
On Wednesday, payroll processor ADP said that private businesses added 263,000 jobs in March, the most since December 2014.