A day ahead of the eagerly anticipated February employment data, the Labor Department reports initial applications for state unemployment benefits fell by 7,000 last week -- to a seasonally adjusted 340,000. Economists at Briefing.com were calling for a total of 355,000 .
At the same time, the government revised its number for the holiday-shortened week ending February 23 higher by 3,000 -- to 347,000.
The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile and considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, was 348,750, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week's revised average of 355,750. The previous week had initially been reported as 355,000.
The government is scheduled to report Friday morning on the employment picture for February. Briefing.com expects that nonfarm payrolls increased by 170,000 last month with the unemployment rate holding steady at 7.9%. The economy created 157,000 jobs in January
Earlier this week, payroll processing firm ADP projected creation of 198,000 jobs during February.