- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

The number of continuing unemployment claims dropped for the first time in 20 weeks, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Continuing claims decreased to 6.74 million for the week ending May 23, which is 15,000 less than the preceding week’s revised number of 6.75 million.

The agency also said the number of first-time state claims decreased last week by 4,000.

Unemployed workers filed 621,000 claims in the week ending May 30, compared to the previous week’s revised number of 625,000.

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The numbers appear to show layoffs are slowing and unemployed workers are starting to find new jobs.

The Labor Department on Friday will release its monthly unemployment report.

The U.S. unemployment rate is now 8.9 percent. Roughly 5.7 million U.S. jobs have been lost since the recession began 18 months ago.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 23 were in Illinois, 3,881; Iowa, 2,312; and South Carolina, 1,792.

Illinois officials attributed the increase to layoffs in the trade, service and manufacturing industries.

South Carolina and Iowa officials said layoffs in the manufacturing industry resulted in the increases.

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