US jobless claims ease by 17,000

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The Independent Online

The outlook for the US labour market brightened a little yesterday after official figures showed a greater than anticipated decline in the number of Americans making new claims for unemployment benefits last week.

Initial claims for state benefits fell by 17,000 to 421,000, the US Labour Department said, beating market hopes of a moderation to 425,000. The four-week average, considered a better gauge of underlying trends, also improved, easing by 4,000 to 427,500. The decline meant that the measure remained at its lowest level in more than two years.

The figures offered some grounds for optimism following the disappointing report last week which showed that the US unemployment rate had climbed to 9.8 per cent in November.