New unemployment claims sank to a three-year low last week.
The number of Americans filing new jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 366,000 for the week ending Dec. 10, according to the Department of Labor. The figure is the lowest the country has seen since May 2008.
The number brings the four-week average of weekly unemployment applications to 387,750, a decline of 6,500 from the previous week and the lowest four-week figure since July 2008.
New unemployment claims falling below “400,000 is definitely a good sign but part of that is because companies have already shed a lot of jobs, made a lot of cutbacks, so we’re not in that phase anymore,” said Stephen Bronars, senior economist at Welch Consulting. ”So now the problem is getting people back to work.”
The new figure is the “best single piece of news we had in some time,” Bronars added.
“Layoffs have come way down but what we need is for hiring to pick up” to illustrate a recovery, he said. “Although hiring is up, it’s not up to anywhere close to pre-recession levels.”
”In the past three months, net job gains have averaged 143,000 a month,” according to the Associated Press. “That compares with an average of 84,000 in the previous three months.”
The country has been dogged in the past few years by persistent unemployment since hitting a high of 10.1 percent in October 2009.
One sector hit hard by the recession was manufacturing, which added just 2,000 jobs in November and has remained nearly unchanged since July, according American Manufacturing.
“If we want to rebuild the middle class in America, we need strong employment growth in manufacturing,” Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said.
Bronars said, “We did lose a lot of jobs in manufacturing , probably as many as many as a couple of million,” adding that manufacturing has seen an increase in job postings.
“The problem is we’ll never get back to where we were, ” he said.
There are more than 6 million people receiving unemployment benefits.