First-time jobless claims dropped 9,000 last week

First-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 9,000 last week, another sign that businesses are laying off fewer workers and the labor market is improving. 

The number of people filing for unemployment insurance fell to a seasonally adjusted 315,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The four-week average of applications, which smooths out the weekly data, dropped 6,250 to 330,500, the best showing in about three months.

After a rough winter, employers showed last month that they are willing to pick up hiring — adding 175,000 jobs in February — a positive sign as the economy heads into spring. 

The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent from 6.6 but only because more people jumped back into the job market to look for work. 

Those figures go along with an improvement in retail sales numbers last month. Sales were up 0.3 percent in February, rebounding from a 0.6 percent drop in January. 

Overall, economists expect growth to accelerate in the spring and into the summer.