Washington, Jul 29 (IANS/EFE): Initial claims for unemployment benefits declined by 24,000 last week to 398,000, the first time since early April that the figure dipped below 400,000, the US Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists forecast new jobless claims would come in at around 415,000. A level of less than 400,000 usually signals a brightening employment picture.
The rolling four-week average of first-time jobless claims, seen as a more reliable guide to trends in the labour market, fell 8,500 to 413,750.
For the week ending July 16, the number of people receiving state unemployment benefits dipped 17,000 to 3.7 million.
Payments were going to another 3.76 million Americans under federal emergency programmes adopted in the face of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.
The US economy registered a net increase of just 18,000 jobs in June, causing the unemployment rate to edge up to 9.2 percent, the Labor Department said last week.
Nearly 14 million people remain out of work.
Though the recession officially ended two years ago, economic growth remains too weak to recover the 8.4 million jobs lost during the slump.
The higher U6 unemployment rate, which includes part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs and people who have given up looking, also increased in June, from 15.8 percent to 16.2 percent.