New US jobless claims at four-year low


The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level in more than four and a half years, according government data today that suggested improvement in the labour market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the Labor Department said. It was the lowest number of new claims since February 2008.

The prior week's figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging up to 370,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labour market trends, fell 11,500 to 364,000.

A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated for the latest report.

Recent data on the US labour market has been encouraging.

Employers added a modest 114,000 jobs to their payrolls in September, but the unemployment rate dropped sharply to 7.8 per cent, the lowest level since President Barack Obama took office.

Obama is in a tight fight with Republican challenger Mitt Romney less than a month before elections on November 6th, and the health of the labour market is an important factor for voters.

The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell to 3.27 million in the week ended September 29th, the latest data available.


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