Weekly jobless claims down slightly, need to continue improving

Unemployment claims fell slightly last week but the numbers need to accelerate for job growth to be sustained.

Weekly jobless claims were down 4,000 to 444,000 for the week ending May 8 after the previous week's revised figure of 448,000. The monthly average -- a slightly better gauge than the weekly number -- showed a decrease of 9,000 from the revised 459,500 average of the previous week, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday. 

While initial claims have dropped only 2.2 percent through the first four months of the year, they are 29 percent lower than a year ago. 

To begin making a dent in the 8 million jobs lost during the recession, weekly claims need to fall below 400,000 to show expanding job growth.

On top of that, job growth would need to average around 400,000 a month to chip away at the soaring 9.9 percent unemployment rate. In April, 290,000 jobs were added to the economy.

The advance number for seasonally-adjusted insured unemployment increased 12,000 while the four-week moving average was 14,750.