The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell dramatically in the last week of February, official data showed on March 4.
The Department of Labor said 469,000 initial jobless claims were filed in the week ending February 27, versus 495,000 the week before.
It was the first fall in three weeks and just enough to beat market expectations. Analysts had predicted the seasonally adjusted claims would hit 470,000.
In the week to February 20, a total of 4.5 million Americans claimed unemployment benefits, a decrease of 134,000 on the previous week's revised figure of 4.6 million.
On March 5 the government will present its estimate of how many Americans were unemployed in February. "A sharp uptick in employment would indicate the recession is ending, while more job losses would indicate a double dip recession is more imminent," said Peter Morici at the University of Maryland.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010