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October 16, 2009

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Claims for jobless insurance decline

THE number of newly laid-off American workers filing claims for unemployment insurance has fallen to the lowest level since early January, a sign the labor market is slowly improving.

And consumer price pressures remained mild last month as Americans slowly regain their appetite to shop amid a fledgling economic recovery.

The Labor Department said yesterday that first-time claims for jobless benefits dropped to a seasonally-adjusted 514,000 from an upwardly revised 524,000 the previous week. The fifth decline in six weeks was below Wall Street economists' forecasts of 525,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, fell for the sixth straight time to 531,500. That's the lowest since January and about 105,000 below the peak reached in early April.

Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a measure of layoffs and the willingness of companies to add jobs.

The steady decline in claims indicates that companies are shedding fewer workers. Many economists expect that job losses will fall below 200,000 this month from 263,000 last month. That's still a large amount, but would be the fewest in a year.

The department also said consumer prices rose 0.2 percent last month, matching analysts' expectations.

Prices, excluding the volatile energy and food categories, also rose 0.2 percent, slightly higher than the 0.1-percent rise analysts had forecast.

Over the past 12 months, consumer prices fell 1.3 percent, reflecting a severe recession that has kept a lid on inflation across a wide range of products and services.


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