First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to a near four-year low in the week ending Feb. 11, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday. Initial jobless claims decreased by 13,000 to a seasonably adjusted 348,000, the lowest level since March 2008, and a further sign of the labor market is getting stronger. The four-week moving average, a less volatile number that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, was 365,250, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week. Economists consider between 350,000 and 375,000 as a benchmark for sustained hiring that will lower the unemployment rate. The number of Americans filing for continuing unemployment claims during the week ending Feb. 4 was 3,426,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the preceding week. The four-week moving average was 3,492,500, a decrease of 8,250 from the preceding week. States reported 3,002,475 persons claiming emergency unemployment benefits for the week ending Jan. 28 (the most recent data available), an increase of 16,568 from the prior week. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending Jan. 21 was 7,681,911, an increase of 18,304 from the previous week. The largest increases in initial jobless claims for the week ending Feb. 4 were in California, Illinois, Kansas, Puerto Rico, and North Carolina. The largest decrease was in Washington. Initial jobless claims have declined for three consecutive weeks.