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Unemployment claims slide continues

Initial filings for jobless benefits fell by 21,000 to 530,000 in latest week, lower than expected.

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By Hibah Yousuf, CNNMoney.com contributing writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- New filings for unemployment insurance fell for a third straight week, the government said Thursday, surprising economists.

There were 530,000 initial claims filed in the week ended Sept. 19, down 21,000 from a revised 551,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said in a weekly report.

A consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected 550,000 new claims.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims was 553,500, down 11,000 from the previous week's revised average of 564,500.

"After two weeks of declines which seemed to be linked in part to seasonal problems connected to the late Labor Day, we expected a rebound this week, so these data come as a pleasant surprise," wrote economist Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics in a research note.

"The downward trend in claims leveled off in the early summer but it now seems to be back with a vengeance, as it should if the economy really is growing at a (Cash for) Clunker-assisted 3%-plus rate in the quarter," he said.

Continuing claims. The government said 6,138,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended Sept. 12, the most recent data available. That was down 123,000 from the preceding week's revised 6,261,000 claims.

The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 1,250 to 6,187,250, down from the prior week's revised average of 6,188,500.

The initial claims number identifies those filing for their first week of unemployment benefits. Continuing claims reflect people filing each week after their initial claim until the end of their standard benefits, which usually last 26 weeks.

The figures do not include those who have moved to state or federal extensions, nor people whose benefits have expired.

State-by-state data: A total of 21 states reported a decline in initial claims of more than 1,000 for the week ended Sept. 12, the most recent data available.

Claims in Texas declined the most, by 4,623, which a state-supplied comment said was due to fewer layoffs in the trade, service and manufacturing industries.

Claims increased by 1,573 in Wisconsin, which a state-supplied comment said was due to layoffs in the construction, service and manufacturing industries.

Outlook: Though job losses are tapering off, Shepherdson said claims still need to drop by 100,000 to about 432,000 to be consistent with payrolls.

"Claims still have a long way to go," he said. "But payrolls won't keep falling forever -- just until next spring, we think."  To top of page

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