Oct 8, 2009 8:46 AM by Associated Press
The number of new claims for jobless benefits last week fell to the lowest level since early January, as employers cut fewer workers.
The Labor Department says first-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped last week to a seasonally adjusted 521,000, from the previous week's upwardly revised total of 554,000.
That's better than the 540,000 that Wall Street economists expected, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. The drop is the fourth in five weeks.
The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, fell to 539,750, the lowest since Jan. 17.
The number of people continuing to claim benefits declined by 72,000 to 6.04 million. Analysts expected continuing claims to rise slightly.