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Jobless claims up but stick near post-recession low
WASHINGTON (4/4/14)--Jobless claims for the week ending March 29 climbed by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000--the highest levels recorded for March--according to Labor Department numbers released Thursday.

Despite a soft end to the month, the four-week moving average of 319,500 still hovers near a post-recession low ( April 3).

"The trend of improving claims appears to be continuing after the early 2014 run-up," said Jennifer Lee, BMO Capital Markets senior economist (MarketWatch April 3).

If the steady, lower jobless-claim numbers are in fact a signal of sustainable improvements in the workforce, a strong jobs report scheduled for release later this week could strengthen the notion.

Economists, however, predict 200,000 jobs have been added in March, only a slight uptick from the mild gains made in February. 

Continuing claims, which tracks those who claim unemployment benefits for at least a second straight week, rose by 22,000 to 2.84 million for the week ending March 22.

Despite uninspiring additional job numbers, the job market may still be rebounding, as employers announced the fewest first-quarter job cuts in 19 years, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc., a global outplacement consultancy organization.

The first quarter closed at 34,399 jobs cuts for March, which is the second lowest total for one month since January 2013.

More than 41,000 job cuts had been planned for March. The entire quarter saw 121,341 job cuts, a 16% decrease from the same quarter in 2013.

"The first quarter typically experiences some of the heaviest job cutting of the year," said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray and Christmas, adding, "Employers are well below (average) this year, suggesting that layoffs continue to decline in a recovery that is approaching its five-year anniversary."

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