WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- The number of new applicants for state unemployment insurance fell again last week, according to the federal government, ahead of Friday's highly anticipated jobs report.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 439,000 for the week ended March 27. Analysts believed claims would fall marginally lower to 440,000 from the prior week's prerevised 442,000 tally, according to consensus figures provided by Briefing.com.

The four-week moving average, which can offer a clearer assessment after flattening potentially temperamental ebbs and flows week to week, fell to its lowest level since September 2008, down 6,750 to 447,250.

The number of those continuing to make claims rolls dropped to 4.662 million for the week ending March 20 from 4.668 million.

Investors will now turn their attention to the March jobs report due Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Early consensus estimates are calling for nonfarm payrolls to gain 190,000 last month, while the nation's unemployment rate will likely hold steady at 9.7%. But in a preview Wednesday, markets received a chill after Automatic Data Processing ( ADP) said private sector employers shed another 23,000 jobs last month. Still, analysts are looking for a six-figure gain on Friday, which could be driven by a weather rebound and a pickup in Census worker hiring.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York

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