More good news about the economy

The number of people seeking unemployment aid was unchanged last week and the four-week average of applications fell to its lowest point in four years, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The figures are the latest evidence that the job market is improving.

The Labor Department said 351,000 laid-off workers sought unemployment aid last week. That’s the fewest number of people seeking unemployment assistance since March 2008, just a few months into the recession.

Healthier economic growth is spurring greater job growth. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.8% in the final three months of last year — a full percentage point higher than the previous quarter.

Most economists expect growth will slow in the current quarter, because companies won’t need to rebuild their stockpiles of goods as much as they did last winter. That means less production of goods.

But there are signs that the economy is still expanding at a healthy pace. Factory output got off to a robust start this year, and it ended last year with the fastest growth in five years, the Federal Reserve said last week.

Factories are adding jobs to keep up with the extra demand. Manufacturers added a net gain of 50,000 jobs last month, the most in a year.

Still, the job market has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the damage of the Great Recession. Nearly 13 million people remain unemployed, and 8.3% unemployment is painfully high.

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