U.S. Sees Surprise Drop in Weekly Jobless Claims

Fell by 8% last week

New U.S. jobless claims fell by 8% to 610,000 in the past week, official figures showed on April 16, a third consecutive decline suggesting some easing of pressure in the weak labor market.

The figure marked a drop of 53,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 663,000, the Labor Department said. It was much better than analyst expectations of 658,000 initial claims.

The four-week moving average, which smoothes out volatility, was 651,000, a decrease of 8,500 from the previous week.

The report represents one of the most up-to-date snapshots of the labor market, and is an indication of business confidence in hiring and job cuts.

Although the U.S. has been losing jobs at a rapid pace, analysts say stabilization of the labor market could be an indication that the economy is ready to rebound from recession.

The latest figures show a return to job loss levels of early February after a peak of 674,000 new claims the week of March 28.

A Labor Department official said new claims dropped in areas that had seen high job cuts, especially in regions producing automobiles.

The report also showed the insured unemployment rate was 4.5% for the week ending April 4, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week.

And despite the drop in new claims, the number receiving unemployment benefits topped six million -- rising by 172,000 to 6,022,000 in the week to April 4, indicating difficulties in finding new jobs.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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