New claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to around 350,000 - a four year low. Coupled with some good manufacturing news from the east coast, it appears that the economy - if not booming - finally appears to be picking up a little momentum.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 351,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That took claims back to a four-year low reached in February.
Separately, the New York Federal Reserve said its Empire State general business conditions index rose to 20.21 - highest level since June 2010 - from 19.53 in February.
"This suggests that the recovery is firmly on track," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The reports were the latest to imply the economy was holding its own, even though the pace of growth was expected to slow this quarter from the fourth quarter's 3.0 percent annualized clip.
Prices for U.S. Treasury debt held losses suffered Wednesday after the claims data, which fell more than economists had expected. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, was unchanged at 355,750.
First-time applications for jobless benefits have been tucked in a tight range since mid-February, a hopeful sign for the labor market, which has enjoyed three straight months of employment gains above 200,000.