New jobless claims fall more than expected to 550K

New jobless claims fall more than expected to 550,000, as layoffs ease in improving economy
By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — First-time claims for jobless benefits fell more than expected last week, evidence that companies are laying off fewer workers as the economy improves.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to a seasonally adjusted 550,000 from an upwardly revised 576,000 in the previous week. Analysts expected claims to drop to 560,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

The number of people continuing to receive benefits fell by 159,000 to nearly 6.1 million, the lowest level since early April.

The economy is showing consistent signs that the worst recession since the 1930s may be over. The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that 11 of its 12 regional banks reported the economy is stabilizing, an improvement from previous reports.

Still, the unemployment claims remain significantly above levels associated with a healthy economy and indicate that jobs remain scarce. Weekly initial claims are generally at 325,000 or below in a growing economy. A year ago, only 3.5 million people were receiving unemployment aid.

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