New claims for unemployment insurance fell for the second straight week, fresh evidence the job market is slowly improving.
Still, the declines come after a sharp increase three weeks ago, and claims remain at elevated levels.
The Labor Department says initial claims for jobless benefits dropped last week by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 453,000. That nearly matches analysts' estimates of 450,000.
The number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by 31,000 to 4.67 million. Analysts had expected the total benefit rolls to remain level.
Employers are starting to ramp up hiring as the economy recovers from the worst recession since the 1930s, but not quickly enough to bring down the jobless rate.
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