Applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the second-lowest level this year, fresh evidence that companies are cutting fewer jobs.
First-time claims for jobless aid fell by 17,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 421,000 in the week ending Dec. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure, dropped for the fifth straight week to 427,500. That's the lowest since August 2008, just before the financial crisis intensified with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Claims have fallen steadily in the past two months. Applications dropped to 410,000 two weeks ago — the lowest level in more than two years — and they have been below 450,000 for the past five weeks. That is raising hopes that companies will soon accelerate hiring.
Still, claims have only been below 425,000 for two of the last three weeks. Economists say they need to be below that level for an extended period to have any real impact lowering the nation'sunemployment rate
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