Initial Unemployment Claims Dip

March 21, 2002 ( - The labor market showed further signs of strengthening this week with the number of people filing for unemployment insurance benefits for the first time falling further than anticipated, according to new data from the Department of Labor.

The number of initial jobless claims dropped by 12,000 in the week of March 16, to a seasonally adjusted 371,000. One year ago, initial claims stood at 382,000.

The four-week moving average, considered by many economists to be a better measure of employment conditions since it eliminates weekly fluctuations, inched up to 379,000 from 376,500. Last year at this time, the four-week moving average came in at 377,750.

The states with the largest fall in jobless claims were New York, New Jersey and Washington, while those with the largest increases were South Carolina, Alaska and Tennessee.

In other economic news, the February’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), the US’s key inflation gauge, increased by 0.2%, matching the previous month’s gains.

Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose by 0.3% after a 0.2% increase in January.