- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2009

UPDATED:

The number of people who filed for jobless claims for the first time last week dropped unexpectedly, and those who receive continuing benefits also declined in number, another surprise, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell to 639,000 during the week ended Saturday from the previous week’s upwardly revised figure of 670,000. Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com had expected 650,000 people to file claims for the first time last week.

At the same time, the Labor Department said that the number of people without jobs who continue to receive unemployment benefits dipped to 5.1 million from 5.12 million the previous week. Analysts had expected 5.15 continuing claims.

The figures marked the first declines, however slight, after rising for five consecutive weeks.

But the four-week average of new applications, which gives a clearer picture of the number of jobless, crept up 2,000 to 641,750, the highest since October 1982, a recession year during the first term of President Reagan. The labor force has grown by half since that time.


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