There were 339,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, down 16,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says.
The drop brought claims down to around their lowest level since early 2008, when the latest recession was just getting started and before the downturn got its grip on the economy.
Last week's decline is a positive sign. The Associated Press reminds readers that jobless claims "are a proxy for layoffs" and that when they drop, "it signals that companies are cutting fewer jobs." But the wire service adds that layoffs are only "half of the equation. Businesses also need to be confident enough in the economic outlook to step up hiring."
Recent indicators seem to show that most businesses aren't yet willing to boost hiring. In March, the government estimates, just 88,000 jobs were added to private and public payrolls.
Still, Reuters says the news on jobless claims offers "reassurance [that] the bottom is not falling out of the labor market despite signs of slower growth."