Initial jobless claims plummeted to their lowest level since March 2008 in the week ending July 7, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday. The advanced figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 350,000, a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 376,000. , The four-week moving average, a less volatile number that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, was 376,000, a decrease of 9,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 386,250. Analysts consider a sustained reading of 375,000 to be a benchmark that signals strong enough hiring to lower the unemployment rate. Among the factors that may have contributed to the unexpected drop in jobless claims include the July 4th holiday. The number of Americans filing for continuing unemployment claims during the week ending June 30 was 3,304,000, a decrease of 14,000 from the preceding week. The four-week moving average was 3,308,000, an increase of 1,250 from the prior week. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending June 23 was 5,874.035, an increase of 17,011 from the previous week. States reported 2,606,287 persons claiming emergency unemployment benefits for the week ending June 23, a decrease of 9,842 from the prior week. There were 3,234,115 claimants in the comparable week in 2011. The largest increases in initial jobless claims for the week ending June 30 were in California, Kentucky, Michigan, New York and Oklahoma. The largest decreases were in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas.