The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 361,750, also lowest in four years. The average has fallen nearly 13% in the past six months.
When unemployment benefit applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
On Friday, the government issues its March jobs report, which is expected to show a fourth straight month of strong hiring. From December through February, employers added an average 245,000 jobs per month. That has pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.3%, lowest in three years.
Hiring is picking up as the economy is showing signs of steady growth. Consumer spending jumped in February by the most in seven months, the government said last week.
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