National

Dec 3, 2009 9:45 AM by Associated Press

New jobless claims the lowest since Sept. 2008

The tally of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly for the fifth straight week, a hopeful sign that the job market is slowly improving.

The Labor Department says first-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000, the lowest total since the week of Sept. 6, 2008.

Wall Street economists expected an increase, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. A Labor Department analyst says the closing of state unemployment offices for last week's Thanksgiving holiday was responsible for some of the decline.

The number of people claiming benefits for more than a week rose by 28,000 to 5.5 million. Analysts had expected a decline.

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