The number of people signing up for unemployment compensation in the United States dropped last week, while an updated study of U.S. productivity shows rapid gains in the last few months of 2009.
Thursday's reports from the Labor Department show jobless claims dropping by 29,000 to a total of 469,000. This may be evidence that the job market is making a slow recovery.
Other figures show the amount of work produced per worker per hour grew at a strong 6.9 percent annual rate in the last quarter of 2009. Productivity gains are usually good news, but in this case they follow a long period of layoffs and employers' efforts to squeeze more work out of the remaining staff.
Some economists say companies have just about reached the limit of what they can produce without hiring new workers, so hiring may resume in the next few months.
On Friday government experts are set to publish the official U.S. unemployment rate, which economists surveyed by news organizations say probably rose slightly in February.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.