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U.S. jobless claims hit near 4-year low

(Xinhua)

08:33, February 10, 2012

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- The number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid last week dropped to nearly a four-year low, a sign for recovery in the labor market, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

The Labor Department said that the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits was 358,000 in the week ending on Feb. 4, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week's revised figure. It is the second-lowest level since April 2008.

As a rule of thumb, fewer than 425,000 people applying for aid is consistent with modest job growth, but the number of jobless claims will have to fall to 375,000 or below to signal a sustained drop in the unemployment rate.

The data showed the four-week moving average, which helps to smooth out week-to-week volatility, edged down by 11,000 to 366,250, the lowest since late April 2008.

The fresh figure came after employers added a net gain of 243,000 jobs in January, the biggest in nine months. The unemployment rate fell for the fifth straight month to 8.3 percent, the lowest in nearly three years.

From November to January, the economy has added an average of 201,000 net jobs per month. But the job market has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the recession.

The report also said the advance figure for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Jan. 28 was 3.515 million, an increase of 64,000 from one week earlier.

The weekly figures of jobless benefits application reflect the level of layoffs and indicate real-time condition of the American job market.

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