The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, a hopeful sign the job market may be improving.
The Labor Department said that first-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 440,000, the lowest total in a month. Wall Street economists had expected an decline of 15,000.
A Labor Department analyst said the decline largely reflects the end of administrative backlogs that had elevated claims in the previous three weeks.
The number of people claiming benefits for more than a week fell by nearly 80,000 to 4.5 million. That was a steeper decline than expected.
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