For the second consecutive week to new nine-month lows,new claims for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped the Labor Department said on Oct. 15.
The seasonally adjusted number of claims in the week to October 10 fell by 10,000 to 514,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 524,000, the Labor Department said.
The four-week moving average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, also fell, by 9,000 to 531,500 from the previous week's revised 540,500.
The total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits also shrank.
Analysts say although the level of new claims remains far too high, it is heading in the right direction as most government and private data point to a U.S. recovery from one of the most brutal recessions since December 2007.
For the labor market to balance, some say claims should reach around 350,000.
The Labor Department also said that the country's insured unemployment rate was 4.5% for the week to October 3, a 0.1 percentage point drop from the prior week's unrevised rate of 4.6%.
In a blow to hopes of imminent recovery, Labor Department figures early this month showed job losses accelerated to 263,000 in September, pushing the unemployment rate to a new 26-year high of 9.8%.
Since the start of the recession nearly two years ago, the number of unemployed has increased by 7.6 million to 15.1 million.
Most economists expect growth to return in the third quarter but say the recovery could fade without job growth.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009