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Jobless claims fall sharply to 4-month low

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Fewer people applied for unemployment aid last week, the third drop in four weeks and possible evidence that the job market is showing signs of life.

If the decline continues, it could signal more hiring in the near future. The report comes after the U.S. Labor Department said last week that private employers added the most jobs in six months in October.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that initial claims for jobless aid dropped by 24,000, to a seasonally adjusted 435,000. Many Wall Street economists expected a smaller decrease.

The four-week average of claims, a less volatile measure, fell 10,000, to 446,500. That's the lowest level for the average since the week that ended Sept. 13, 2008, just before the financial crisis intensified with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Weekly first-time claims are now at their lowest level since early July, when they were temporarily lowered by the July 4 holiday. Last week's figures are the second-lowest this year.

Applications fell partly because the weather has been relatively warm so far this fall, a Labor Department analyst said, and construction and manufacturing firms haven't temporarily laid off as many workers due to cold weather as they have in the past.

Claims have previously dropped sharply this year, but have always bounced back. Applications have fluctuated around 450,000 for most of this year, after falling last year from about 600,000 when the recession ended in June 2009. Economists say claims need to drop below 425,000 to signal a healthy pace of hiring.

Applications for unemployment benefits, while volatile, provide a real-time snapshot of the job market. They are a measure of the pace of layoffs and signal whether companies are adding jobs.

Some companies are hiring new workers, despite the slow economy. US Airways said Monday that it plans to hire 500 flight attendants and pilots next year, mostly to cover planned retirements and attrition. The jobs will initially be offered to former employees laid off during the downturn.

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  • Why it is getting better
    It goes to show that the President's response to the GOP Financial Crisis of 2008 is working. For the GOP somehow thinking that it would be solved overnight was only using it for political leverage in the elections. Their official policy mirrors what they did in 1929 (or didn't do). By the time FDR took over from the republicans, unemployment grew to 20%and was rapidly rising. The president prevented another GOP Depression and unemployment only went to about 10% nationally. It might have been lower in Indiana had the Governor not blocked and redirected the stimulus efforts. Time to wake up and see the facts for what they are.

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