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WASHINGTON (AP) — New claims for jobless benefits fell for the third straight week but remain elevated, suggesting the labor market is still sluggish.
Initial claims fell by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 456,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's nearly the same level as in January.
At the same time, the tally of laid-off workers continuing to claim jobless benefits fell by the largest amount in almost a year. That could be because more people are finding work. But it may simply mean that they have exhausted their initial state benefits.
Continuing claims fell by 255,000 to 4.5 million, the lowest level since December 2008, the department said. A Labor Department analyst said state agencies didn't provide any explanation for the drop.
In another report, the Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit rose to the highest level in 16 months as exports fell for the second time in three months. That's a potentially worrisome sign that Europe's debt troubles are beginning to crimp American manufacturers, which could impact the U.S. job market.
Still, stocks surged Thursday as investors appeared pleased with the two reports and with news that Chinese exports rose in May. The Dow Jones industrial average shot up more than 200 points in the first hour of trading.
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