Both numbers are around the four-year lows they have maintained for several weeks. They are now at their lowest level since March 1, 2008.
For the week ending March 3, the number of Americans claiming benefits in state and federally extended programs was 7,281,541, a decrease of 142,499 from the previous week.
That number is expected to begin a sharp decline as a result of a payroll tax cut deal struck in Congress that will reduce the maximum number of weeks out-of-work people can collect benefits in the states worst hit by the economic downturn from 99 weeks to 63 weeks by September.
While the unemployment claims have been good news now for nearly four months, and job growth has averaged 245,000 a month for the past three months, long-term unemployment remains severe, with 43 percent of the 12.8 million jobless Americans having been out of work for more than six months, a post-World War II record.