WASHINGTON — Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits fell by 7,000 to 340,000 in the March 2 week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The initial claims level in the February 23 week was revised up to 347,000 from the previously reported 344,000 level. Expectations for this week's report was for an initial claims level of 355,000.

A Labor Department analyst said there was nothing unusual in the state level data, with all states reporting.

Seasonal adjustment factors expected unadjusted claims to increase by 30,000 in the March 2 week. Instead, unadjusted claims rose by 7.5%, or 23,198, to 333,389. That level is below the 368,433 level reported in the comparable week a year ago.

The state data released for the February 23 week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in 16 states and declined in 37 states, with no states unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average was 348,750 in the March 2 week, a decline of 7,000 from the previous report to the lowest level since the week of March 8, 2008 (346,500). 

The level of continuing claims came in at 3.094 million after seasonal adjustment in the March 2 week, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week.

There was a bigger jump in the level of unadjusted continuing claims, up by 52,854 to 3,589,315 in the week, but still below the 3,988,890 level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment was unchanged at 2.4% in the February 23 week, below the seasonally adjusted 2.7% rate in the comparable week a year earlier.

The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is well below that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and labor force reentrants included in the monthly report.

The Labor Department said that the level of unadjusted Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits claims plummeted in the February 16 week, falling by 225,365 to 1,780,626.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 5,401,893 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the February 16 week, a decline of 362,275 from the previous week, and well below the 7,387,649 persons in the comparable week a year ago. These data are not seasonally adjusted, and include regular state claims, federal employee claims, new veterans claims, the EUC and extended benefits programs, state additional benefits, and STC/Workshare claims.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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