WASHINGTON — The number of Americans claiming unemployment fell last week, and factory employment in the U.S. Midwest hit a 27-year high in March, signs that the labor market is improving.
The decline in layoffs and regional pickup in hiring should take the sting out of slowing economic growth early in the year and underscore that the moderation in activity is temporary.
Bad weather and rising energy prices slowed growth in the early months of 2011 after a brisk fourth quarter.
Initial claims for state jobless benefits slipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, a day before the release of the closely watched U.S. employment report.
Separately, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago’s employment index hit the highest level since December, 1983, jumping to 65.6 in March from just under 60 the month before.