The number of unemployed U.S. workers seeking new jobless benefits fell to a four-year low last week, as the labor market strengthens in the world's largest economy.
The government's Labor Department said that 357,000 workers made first-time claims for unemployment compensation, down 6,000 from the week before. That was the lowest total since April 2008.
The government is set to release its jobs report for March on Friday, with economists projecting that another 200,000 or more jobs were added last month.
But with more unemployed workers starting to look again for jobs, the economists are also predicting that the national unemployment rate will remain at 8.3 percent. The jobless rate had fallen for five straight months in the latter half of 2011 as the U.S. economy slowly recovered from the depths of the country's worst economic downturn in seven decades.
The current unemployment figure is still high by U.S. historical standards.
The country's economic performance is at the center of the U.S. presidential campaign, leading to the November election.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is defending his handling of the country's economic recovery and has pointed to the recent increase in hiring as evidence. His leading Republican opponent, one-time venture capitalist Mitt Romney, says the U.S. economic advance has not been fast enough and that he would cut governmental regulations to give the economy even more momentum.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.