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Jan 28, 2010 9:47 AM by Associated Press

First-time jobless claims drop less than expected

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, fresh evidence the job market remains a weak spot in the economic recovery.

The Labor Department says first-time jobless claims dropped by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 470,000. Analysts had expected a steeper drop to 450,000.

The four week average, which smooths out volatility, rose for the second straight week to 456,250. The average had fallen for 19 straight weeks before starting to rise. That decline that had given some analysts hope the economy would soon generate net job gains.

Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a gauge of the pace of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire new workers.

Meanwhile, orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods posted a modest increase in December, but the gain was not enough to prevent orders from plunging by a record amount for the entire year.

The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods edged up a slight 0.3 percent last month, a much weaker showing than the 2 percent advance economists had been expecting.

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