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Applications For Unemployment Benefits Tick Up; Monthly Average At 5-Year Low

There were 336,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, up 2,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration reports.

The big news here is that the 4-week moving average was 339,750, a drop from of 7,5000 from last week and the lowest level in 5 years.

Bloomberg reports:

"'We've been surprised over the last few weeks as claims have continued to fall,' Sean Incremona, senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, said before the report. Incremona projected 335,000 initial claims. 'There is definitely progress in the labor market, though mostly through a reduction in layoffs.'

"Estimates for first-time claims ranged from 325,000 to 352,000 in the Bloomberg survey of 47 economists. The prior week's applications were revised to a seven-week low of 334,000 after an initially reported 332,000."

Update at 9:21 a.m. ET. Manufacturing Is Up:

The AP reports:

"U.S. manufacturing growth quickened in March and the pace of hiring increased, suggesting the sector will contribute to stronger overall U.S. growth in the first quarter, an industry survey showed on Thursday. ...

"Manufacturers stepped up hiring this month, driving the employment sub-index to 54.6 from 53.5 and rounding out the best three-month stretch for hiring in the sector since early last year, according to Markit chief economist Chris Williamson."

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