U.S. Jobless Claims Plunge

Despite dramatic levels of announced layoffs in the auto industry and smaller announced cutbacks in other parts of manufacturing, the U.S. labor market is looking remarkably healthy right now.

For example, the U.S. Labor Department's latest data show initial claims for unemployment insurance last week fell to 278,000, a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 298,000 claims.

The department's four-week moving average of initial claims, a more reliable indicator of underlying labor market conditions because it smooths out week-to-week variations, also fell last week. The average was 281,750, a decrease of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 283,250 claims.

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