The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits was down 9,000 from 324,000 the previous week, while economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected it would rise to 330,000. Continued claims continued to decrease for the third straight week.
Initial claims have been volatile for the last few months, owing to an unusually harsh winter, after falling to a near six-year low in late November 2013. Job growth was sluggish in December and January, but did jump back in February, raising hopes that increased hiring and an uptick in wages could boost consumer spending.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits decreased by 48,000 to 2.86 million in the week ending March 1, the lowest level since December.