Jobless claims dip 3,000 to 223,000 in early March, labor market still showing strength

The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in early March after losing their jobs fell slightly, keeping so-called jobless claims near the lowest levels in a half-century.
Jobless claims, a rough measure of layoffs, fell by 3,000 to 223,000 in the seven days ended March 2, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 225,000 reading.
The four-week average of new jobless claims also slipped by 3,000, to 226,250. The monthly average is viewed as more stable since it smoothens out the weekly gyrations.
The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, declined by 50,000 to 1.76 million.
What happened: The number of layoffs in the economy is still extremely low, but they no longer appear to be falling.
New claims had sunk to as low as 200,000 in early January and continuing claims bottomed out at a 46-year trough of 1.64 million last fall.
The U.S. economy slowed toward the end of 2018 and got off to a sluggish start in the new year, hurt by the partial government shutdown and a festering trade dispute with China.
Growth is likely to pick up in the spring, but probably not as rapidly as it did last year. The early effects of the Trump tax cuts have faded and a global economic slowdown is another headwind.
The government on Friday will unveil how many new jobs were created in February. Although the increase is expected to be a lot smaller than the initially reported 304,000 gain in January, the unemployment rate could fall again. The robust labor market has become the economy’s best insurance policy against a recession.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.52% DJIA, -0.52%and S&P 500 SPX, -0.65% were set to open modestly higher in Thursday trades.
The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.90% fell a few basis points to 2.67%. Many loans such as mortgages and auto loans are tied to changes in the 10-year note, whose yield has fallen from a seven-year high of 3.23% in October.