Recognizing that at least 1 million Americans have stopped looking for work and have dropped off most statistical data, the White House this morning cheered the news that claims for jobless benefits dropped 13,000 in the week ending Feb. 11 to 348,000. That's a nearly four-year low and an indicator that the painfully slow economic recovery may be picking up steam.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims actually rising so this morning's news came as an unexpected benefit. The seasonally adjusted claims are now at their lowest level since March 2008.
Additionally, the U.S. Commerce Department said this morning that housing starts rose 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 699,000 units last month, again beating economists' expectations.