The national unemployment rate held steady last month, but the weekly number of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time has been fluctuating pretty widely, falling by 14,000 in the last week after the previous week's gain of 8,000.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 351,000 people applied for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, down from the previous week's revised figure of 365,000. The four-week moving average stayed unchanged at 355,750. The drop over the past week puts the weekly first time unemployment applications back down to the early 2008 levels they hit in February, Reuters noted, calling the weekly reports "a hopeful sign for the labor market, which has enjoyed three straight months of employment gains above 200,000."