Weekly Jobless Claims Fall to Near Pre-Recession Levels

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Decrease In Unemployment Claims Shows Economy Continuing To Improve
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By Jason Lange

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to nearly its lowest level since before the 2007-09 recession, a sign of growing steam in the U.S. labor market recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 in the week ended Oct. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday.The data adds to the view that some strength is building in the U.S. economy.

"The labor market is entering into a potential boom," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S economist at Deutsche Bank in New York.

Still, Federal Reserve officials remain concerned about persistently low rates of inflation and are not seen in a rush to hike interest rates.

Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 294,000 last week.

Jobless claims have fallen steadily since the nation emerged from the recession and are currently lower than they were before the country's economic crisis began. Indeed, the level of claims last week was just 8,000 above a 14-year low reached in July.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 7,250 to 287,750, its lowest level since 2006.

Prices for U.S. government debt held on to modest gains following the publication of the data. On Wednesday, prices had risen after minutes from the Fed's last policy meeting showed policymakers were concerned by a strong dollar and a global economic slowdown, which led investors to bet the Fed would delay interest rate hikes. U.S. stock index futures were little changed after Thursday's data was released.

The Labor Department said there were no special factors influencing the state level claims data.

The report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 21,000 to 2.38 million in the week ended Sept. 27.

-With additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York.
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