WASHINGTON (AP) _ Newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits posted a sharp decline last week.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that claims for unemployment benefits fell by 33,000 last week to 342,000. Economists had been expecting claims would rise by 3,000.

The four-week moving average for claims fell by 7,250 to 369,500. Even with the improvements, analysts are still worried that the weak economy is putting greater pressures on the labor market. The unemployment rate climbed to 5.1 percent in March as businesses laid off the largest number of workers in five years.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.