New filings for jobless benefits dropped by 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 385,000, the U.S. Labor Department reports. That’s the fifth reading below the 400,000 mark since the end of recession in June 2009. Meanwhile, the widely watched four-week moving average slipped to just over 386,000, the lowest level since the recovery began.
“As demand has picked up, and the labor component of the economy has been relatively tight, businesses are now seeking to add more to their employment ranks,” Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial, tells Bloomberg.
Industrial production, however, suffered a small setback last month, falling a slight 0.1% in February, the Federal Reserve reports. That’s the first monthly loss since last October.
While overall production from the nation’s factories, utilities and mines slipped last month, the primary component of industrial production—factory output—rose 0.4% in February. This slice of industrial activity is considered relatively influential in job creation, and so its gain last month bodes well for the labor market.
“Manufacturing is going to remain healthy and expand at a moderate pace,” predicts Neil Dutta, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research. “A lot of the weaknessm [in the broad industrial production reading] was centered in the utilities component, with February maybe a little warmer than people were expecting.”