For months, the job market's strength has been exceeding economists' predictions. It happened again today: the Labor Department's weekly report on first-time jobless claims came in at just 348,000 — the lowest level in four years.
Most economists had predicted about 355,000 people had applied for unemployment benefits in the week ended March 17. So why do they keep missing the mark?
"In the week ending March 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 351,000, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 365,000. The 4-week moving average was 355,750, unchanged from the previous week's revised average of 355,750."
And the gain didn't come just become rising gas prices led to a 3.3 percent increase in the value of gasoline sales. According to The Associated Press, retail sales rose 0.8 percent excluding gasoline.