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WASHINGTON (AP) — Weekly applications for unemployment benefits edged down 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 400,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level in four months. The previous week's figure was revised upward from 398,000 to 401,000.
The four-week average, a less volatile figure, dropped for the fifth straight week to 407,750. That suggests there is a downward trend in layoffs.
Applications "have been grinding lower, and this week's result is at least not bad news, which at this point feels pretty good," said Robert Kavcic, an economist at BMO Capital markets, in an email.
Stock futures fluctuated after the report was released before erasing earlier losses.
Applications have been at or above 400,000 for 17 weeks. They fell in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth. They stayed below 400,000 for two months. But applications then surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have declined slowly since then.
The report comes a day before the government will release the July employment figures. Economists forecast that Friday's report will show that employers added a net total of 90,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 9.2 percent.
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