WASHINGTON - The average number of people seeking unemployment benefits over the past month dropped to the lowest level since March 2008, a sign that the job market is healing.
The Labor Department said weekly applications dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000 in the week ended Dec. 22. The four-week average fell to a nearly five-year low of 356,750.
However, the figures were disrupted by the Christmas holiday. The department said many state unemployment offices were closed on Christmas and Christmas Eve and were unable to compile complete data. 14 states provided estimates and the department said they estimated the numbers for five additional states.
The government may estimate one or two states in a typical week, but 19 state estimates are unusually high.