By Mark Memmott
The number of people filing first-time claims for jobless benefits declined by another 7,000 last week, to 444,000, the Employment and Training Administration just reported.
The agency adds that "the 4-week moving average" of claims was 458,500, a decrease of 4,750 from the previous week's revised average of 463,250.
As the Associated Press says, claims have now declined for three straight weeks -- "a sign the job market is slowly recovering."
Bloomberg News adds that tomorrow's report on the April unemployment rate and number of jobs on businesses' payrolls may offer more good news:
"Companies from Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to Caterpillar Inc. are starting to add workers to meet rising demand, which may help lift incomes and consumer spending. A report tomorrow is projected to show employers increased payrolls for the third time in the past four months."
The other major economic indicator this morning, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows a 3.6% (at an annual rate) gain in productivity during first-quarter 2010. While the gain was better than economists expected, it was still a a sharp slowdown from the 6.3% pace in fourth-quarter 2009 and may be, AP says, a sign that employers will soon have to start adding back workers if they want to continue boosting output.
Planet Money sorts through the economic numbers here.