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First-time jobless claims drop sharply

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The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply during the first week of February, dropping by 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 440,000, according to The New York Times.

Economists were expecting a decline of 15,000, and the significant drop is viewed by some as a sign the job market is improving. The four-week average declined by 1,000 to 468,500, which is the first decline after three weeks of increases.

A Department of Labor analyst said administrative backlogs had elevated the claims during the previous three weeks, and last week's drop in claims reflects the end of the backlogs. It remains to be seen whether the recent winter storms in the Mid-Atlantic states and their related office closings will affect next week's data.

Claims currently are close to the low levels they reached in December 2009, when they hit their lowest point in 18 months. The number of people claiming benefits for more than a week dropped by nearly 80,000 to 4.5 million, which was a steeper decline than expected.


2/11/2010

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