11:29am

Thu March 15, 2012
MTSU Economist Cautiously Optimistic

Tenn. Initial Jobless Claims Hit Four Year Low

MURFREESBORO, Tenn.  (AP/WMOT) — Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, adding to signs that the job market is strengthening.

A U.S. Department of Labor report out Thursday shows that applications for unemployment dropped by 14,000 applicants to a seasonally adjusted 351,000.

Here in Tennessee initial jobless claims have dropped to their lowest point in four years. The state saw just over 6100 claims in February, the lowest reading since February, 2008.  Applications hit their peak in April, 2009, when more than 13,400 Tennessee’s made an initial claims.

Middle Tennessee State University economist David Penn is cautiously optimistic.

“I think the outlook right now looks as positive as it has since the beginning of the recession. There’s still a lot of clouds on the horizon, but the labor market in particular looks better than it has in many, many months. Especially over the last three or four months.”

One of the dark clouds Dr. Penn mentioned is the rising cost of gasoline. A report also out Thursday shows wholesale prices were up significantly last month, due almost entirely to higher fuel costs.