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Fewer Americans filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, taking the four-week average to a level considered to signal an increase in employment. Jobless claims decreased by 23,000 to 369,000 in the week ended October 20, the U.S. Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior period had a revised figure of 392,000 jobless clams.
The latest weekly figure was better than most analysts expected, with the average estimate at 375,000. The drop also came after several weeks of big fluctuations in the figures and took the four-week moving average, which gets rid of volatility, up by 1,500 points to 368,000. Any reading below 400,000 is considered by economists to signal hiring outpacing layoffs. Continuing unemployment claims fell 2,000 in the week ended October 13 to a seasonally adjusted 3.254 million.
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The high jobless rate has continued to hurt the country’s economy, though there have been some recent positive signs, including the unemployment rate falling to 7.8 percent and retail sales growing. While that was a big positive for President Barack Obama, the unemployment question has figured big in the run-up to the elections. The Labor Department will release its October employment report on November 2, four days before the polls.
When jobless claims went from a steep drop to a sudden high earlier this month, the Labor Department said a change in the seasonal pattern was to blame for the fluctuations. “Initial claims continue to bounce around because of seasonal adjustment issues, reducing the usefulness in gauging the health of the job market,” Moody’s Analytics’ Ryan Sweet told AFP.
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