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US jobless claims fall for second straight week

Dipti Sharma (L) waits with others to meet potential employers at a job fair on January 17, 2013 in New York City
Dipti Sharma (L) waits with others to meet potential employers at a Manhattan job fair on January 17, 2013 in New York City. New US jobless claims fell for the second week in a row last week, government data released Thursday showed.

New US jobless claims fell for the second week in a row last week, government data released Thursday showed.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits fell to 330,000 in the week ending January 19, a drop of 5,000 from the prior week's level, the Labor Department said.

The decline in claims was unexpected; analysts had forecast a rise to 355,000.

The four-week moving average also fell for the second week running, to 351,750. The average, which smooths week-over-week volatility, was down to its lowest level since early March 2008.

Claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, trended in the 370,000 range for most of 2012.

The decline in claims pointed to improvement in the jobs market, where the unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent in December, a four-year low.

The Labor Department's January jobs report is scheduled on February 1.

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