New Jobless Claims Tumble to Three Year Low

New Jobless Claims We haven't seen this few people applying for first time unemployment benefits since 2008. In the week ending Feb. 26, initial claims dropped by 20,000 to 368,000. That's the third decline in the last four weeks, and shows that many companies have finally reached the point where they just can't afford to let anyone else go. Now we need to get employers to the point where they can't afford not to hire.

Now, 368,000 initial unemployment claims may seem like a lot, but to give you an idea of how far we've come, the highest number of claims for first time benefits in one week was 651,000, during the peak of the recession. Analysts say that if the number consistently falls below 375,000, it signals a significant decline in the unemployment rate. We'll find out if this is true when the national unemployment numbers for February are released Friday.

We'll also find out Friday how many new jobs have been added for the month. Experts are predicting around 175,000. That's just a drop in the bucket when you consider the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs last week was 9,236,041. But every little bit helps.

Meanwhile, some Western states are still struggling. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending Feb. 12 were in Alaska (7.0 percent), Montana (5.5 percent), Pennsylvania (5.5 percent), Idaho (5.3 percent), Puerto Rico (5.2 percent), Rhode Island (5.2 percent), Wisconsin (5.1 percent), Oregon (5.0 percent), Illinois (4.8 percent), and New Jersey (4.8 percent).

And there's good news for some states. The largest decreases in initial claims for the week ending Feb. 19 were in New York (-4,270), Pennsylvania (-3,842), Wisconsin (-3,163), Kentucky (-2,641), and Florida (-2,613).

Next:Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week

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