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New jobless claims continue to creep downward

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By Chritopher S. Rugaber

WASHINGTON (AP) — New claims for unemployment benefits dipped for the fourth straight week, a sign the job market is improving at a slow but steady pace.

Employers are hiring again. But they are not doing it at the level needed to reduce the jobless rate.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims dropped last week by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 444,000. That's slightly above analysts' estimates, according to Thomson Reuters. The previous week's total was revised up to 448,000.

The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, registered a steeper decline. It fell by 9,000 to 450,500 — close to the average's lowest level this year reached in late March.

After dropping steadily last year from a peak of 651,000, first-time claims have fluctuated at around 450,000 since January. Many economists would like to see claims fall faster, which would be a sign of more hiring.

"We expect claims to continue to move lower over the coming weeks and will feel more comfortable about the prospects for sustainable job creation when claims drop below the 400,000 mark," economists at RDQ Economics said in a note to clients.

David Resler, chief economist at Nomura Securities, noted that the claims figure is the third lowest since Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, intensifying the financial crisis.


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