As we await Friday's much-anticipated report about the February unemployment rate and how many jobs were added to employers' payrolls last month, there are these new bits of economic data to chew over:
-- The Employment and Training Administration says there were 340,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week. That's down from 7,000 the previous week. Claims continue at a pace that's the lowest since first-quarter 2008.
There were 198,000 jobs added to private employers' payrolls in February, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report — a privately produced snapshot of the employment picture that's sometimes a signal of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics will say when it releases its data from the same month.
Consumer prices were flat in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. But a driving force behind that good news has reversed itself since then. According to BLS, gasoline prices fell 3 percent last month. In February, though, gas prices have risen sharply. So watch for next month's BLS report on consumer prices to tell a different story.