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Initial jobless claims fall by 23,000

Fewer Americans are applying for unemployment benefits according to the newest numbers out of the Labor Department on Thursday. Initial jobless claims dropped by 23,000 last week as more signs point to a recovery in the American jobs market. USA JobsInitial claims are down to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 from 363,000 the previous week, while the four-week moving average, a more reliable measure of workers seeking jobless aid, fell to 339,500, a decrease of 500 from last week's revised average. That's close to the five-year low of 338,000 reached during the first week of May. The four-week average is 9% lower than in November. "The underlying story in jobless claims continues to be one of gradual improvement," Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a research report. Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The decline in claims has coincided with steady job growth the past six months. Since November, employers have added an average 208,000 jobs a month. That's up from just 138,000 jobs a month during the previous six months. Still, much of the improvement has come from fewer layoffs, not robust hiring. Employers laid off just 1.7 million workers in March, only slightly above the 12-year low reached in January. Overall hiring, however, remains far below pre-recession levels. More than 4.7 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits the week that ended May 4, down 23% from nearly 6.2 million a year earlier. The economy still has 2.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in December 2007. The unemployment has fallen to a four-year low of 7.5%, down from 10% in October 2009. Some of the decrease is because many people have given up looking for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively searching for a job. For hiring to strengthen enough to lower the unemployment rate to a more normal level of between 5.5% and 6%, companies must gain more confidence in the economy. But some may be hesitant to add workers because of concerns of deep federal spending cuts and tax increases. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional committee Wednesday that the job market is improving, but that higher taxes and government spending cuts likely will slow economic growth this year. Bernanke said it was too early for the Fed to abandon its extraordinary efforts to boost economic growth. The Fed says it plans to keep its short-term interest rates near zero until unemployment is below 6.5%. And it is buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds to push down longer-term interest rates. The Fed's low interest-rate policies are intended to encourage more borrowing and spending, which boosts economic growth. Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2013/05/23/jobless-claims-fall/2353871/

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