WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The number of people asking for unemployment benefits last week dropped to the lowest level since March 2008, according to the Labor Department.

The government said weekly applications dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000 for the week ending December 22. Over the last four weeks, the average fell to a nearly five-year low of 356,750.

READ MORE: Broward Health Ending COVID Shots As Demand Decreases, Availability Increases

Weekly applications for unemployment have fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 all year. At the same time, private employers have added an average of 151,000 jobs a month through November, which is just enough to slowly drop the unemployment rate.

READ MORE: Initiatives Announced To Reduce Pollution In Miami-Dade County

Still, the biggest problem the numbers don’t address is whether the new jobs being created are equivalent with the ones that were lost or if the new jobs are part-time or much lowering paying jobs than before.

Experts believe the economy added roughly 150,000 jobs in December. Still, the unemployment rate remains at 7.7 percent and the looming austerity crisis could completely undercut any job momentum that was building over the last year.

MORE NEWS: Insurance Regulators Approve Smaller Rate Hikes For Citizens Property Insurance

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)