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U.S. jobless claims fall to 339K, fewest in over 4 years

By Christopher S. Rugaber

AP Economics Writer

LAST UPDATED: 06:30 a.m. HST, Oct 11, 2012

WASHINGTON » The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted last week to seasonally adjusted 339,000, the lowest level in more than four years. The sharp drop offered a hopeful sign that the job market could pick up.

The Labor Department said today that weekly applications fell by 30,000 to the fewest since February 2008. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped by 11,500 to 364,000, a six-month low.

The positive figures follow a report last week that said the unemployment rate fell in September to 7.8 percent. It was the first time since January 2009 that the rate dropped below 8 percent.

A Labor Department spokesman cautioned that the weekly applications can be volatile, particularly at the start of a quarter. And the spokesman said one large state accounted for much of the decline. The spokesman did not name the state.

Unemployment benefit applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they consistently drop below 375,000, it suggests that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Some economists said they want to see more data before suggesting the job market is turning around.

"Should this level hold for another week, it would flag a meaningful improvement in October" hiring, said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a note to clients.

Dan Greenhaus, chief market strategist at BTIG LLC, is also reserving judgment. "Are things that much better all of a sudden? Perhaps. We're going to wait for some corroborating data."

The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits also fell, the Labor Department said. A little more than 5 million Americans received benefits in the week ending Sept. 22, the latest data available. That's down about 44,000 from the previous week.

Last week's report noted that the unemployment rate declined to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August because a government survey of households found that 873,000 more people had jobs. It was the biggest jump in nearly 10 years, although it was largely because of an increase in part-time employment.

Still, a separate survey of businesses showed that employers added only 114,000 jobs in September. That's generally enough to keep pace with population growth but not enough to rapidly bring relief to more than 12 million who are unemployed.

Hiring over the summer was stronger than previously estimated. The economy gained an average of 146,000 jobs a month in the July-September quarter. That's more than double the monthly pace in the April-June quarter.

Another report Wednesday suggested hiring will likely remain modest. Employers posted slightly fewer open jobs in August compared with July, the Labor Department said. It was the second straight monthly drop and the fewest openings since April.

A key problem is the economy is not growing fast enough to generate much hiring. Growth slowed to a tepid annual rate of 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter, down from 2 percent in the previous quarter. Most economists see growth staying at or below 2 percent in the second half of the year.

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ahi1pfb wrote:
Here is the news they won't tell you. How many people had there unemployment run out and are considered out of the job market. Smoke and mirrors will never tell the true story about our dead economy and the coming collapse estimated to be 2yrs away providing the Mayans were wrong.
on October 11,2012 | 05:14AM
1local wrote:
democrat propaganda - amount of USA citizens out of work is being hidden from the public knowledge. America no longer has a free and impartial News media. Welcome to communism...
on October 11,2012 | 08:48AM
ahi1pfb wrote:
So funny, investigated the jobless report today. Come to find out what the media failed to report is that job report failed to have California's jobless numbers.Wow they are pulling out all the stops to get this president re-elected.
on October 11,2012 | 09:59AM
DOODLE wrote:
to believe this regime is like believeing Obamas video responce to the killing of our ambastor in Libya!
on October 11,2012 | 05:58AM
RichardCory wrote:
Ambastor? Really? I mean, seriously, come on.
on October 11,2012 | 06:11AM
busterb wrote:
LOL, c'mon DOODLE has to be Biden jesting... no way you can have that many mistakes in one sentence without it being a joke. Good one Joe!
on October 11,2012 | 07:40AM
loquaciousone wrote:
What mistakes?
on October 11,2012 | 10:01AM
ufried wrote:
on October 11,2012 | 08:27AM
DiverDave wrote:
339,000 jobs lost this week, and that is supposed to be good news? What a laugh. Really? This economy is like buying dotcom stocks in the 1990's when companies where losing millions a day, but their spin was "we are getting closer to profitability". LOL
on October 11,2012 | 08:42AM
SteveToo wrote:
Das cause the rest done give lookin'
on October 11,2012 | 09:00AM
tiki886 wrote:
So California wen cook the numbers like in Auntie Marialani's Cooking Show? California wen cook the turkey using chicken. First, you gotta make sure da chicken is fresh. Next, you gotta make sure the wine is not too sweet, not to rancid but jess right, eh? Den you gots to tenderize the chicken...massage the chicken...den you prepare da chicken wit some oregano from Oregon. Now you ready fo cook da numbas, I mean da chicken. You cook 'em at 850 degrees fo one minute or 5 degrees fo 4 days. Now we go cook da chicken. Go cook 'em go. OK, time fo smoke break. Cook, cook, cook. Go cook da chicken!


on October 11,2012 | 10:05AM
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