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U.S. Jobless Claims Drop to 339,000, Near Five-Year Low

By HNGN Staff Reporter | Apr 25, 2013 01:04 PM EDT

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In what could be a clear indication of a modest hiring pattern in the coming months, latest data from the Labor Department reveals that job openings in the United States have dropped to a five-month low in September. (Photo : Reuters)

The latest report by the Labor Department released on Thursday showed that applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell to a six-week low, signaling the labor market is improving after a setback last month.

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About 339,000 people filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week, down from 355,000 a week earlier, according to the report. The figure is slightly lower than expected. Economists had forecast jobless claims would fall to 351,000, according to Briefing.com.

"Firms cut their workforces to the bone during the recession and its aftermath and layoffs are going to remain relatively low pretty much regardless of whether the economy picks up or slows down," said chief economist Stephen Stanley of Pierpont Securities, according to Market Watch.

"We have a labor market recovery that's ongoing," said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, who projected 340,000 filings and is the third-best claims forecaster in the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. "The labor market has its ups and downs, but the direction shows things are getting better. Companies are willing to increase their headcounts but at a very slow pace."

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