WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- The number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid last week plummeted from a week earlier to the pre-crisis level, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
The advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits was 335,000 in the week ending Jan. 12, down 37,000 from the previous week's revised figure. It was the lowest level since the Jan. 19, 2008.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which helps smooth out week-to-week volatility, also fell to 359,250 from the previous week. Fewer than 375,000 claims generally indicates a sustained drop in the unemployment rate.
The advance figure for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Jan. 5 was 3.214 million, an increase of 87,000 from the prior week.
While the U.S. economy has surpassed the pre-crisis peak, the labor market is far from regaining all of the lost jobs. From an employment peak in January 2008 to a trough in February 2010, the United States lost a net total of 8.8 million jobs.
So far only a net total of 4.8 million jobs had been recovered. In particular, the manufacturing sector, which the Obama Administration expected to lead the recovery, just regained 23.3 percent of lost jobs.
In December 2012, U.S. businesses added 155,000 jobs, a pace matching the average for 2012, and the unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent. But companies are still reluctant to lift hiring due to the prospect of higher taxes and federal spending cuts.