NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits declined last week but continued to drift in the same range they have been since November, according to a government report released Thursday.
There were 453,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Sept.18, down 16,000 from an upwardly revised 469,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting 457,000 new claims.
The modest drop returns jobless claims to the same level they were two weeks ago. Claims have been stuck in the mid- to upper-400,000 range for about 10 months.
The 4-week moving average of initial claims -- a number that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility -- was 458,000. This number is down 6,250 from the previous week.
But given the drop in business confidence over the summer, the job market picture could be much worse, according to High Frequency Economics chief economist Ian Shepherdson.
"It is not clear why businesses have not translated their nervousness about the economy into faster layoffs," he said. "We are beginning to think the labor market has dodged a bullet. Conditions remain truly awful, but they could have been even worse."
He added that while there's still a time for claims to move higher, the chance seems less likely by the week.
Continuing claims: The government said 4,457,000 people continued to file unemployment claims for their second week or more, during the week ended Sept. 18, the most recent data available. That's down 83,000 from an upwardly revised 4,540,000 the week before.
Economists were expecting 4,450,000 people to file ongoing claims.
The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 5,500 to 4.527 million.
Continuing claims reflect people who file 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, or people who have exhausted their benefits but are still out of a job.
The figures came as the the government revised second-quarter economic growth up to an annual rate of 1.7% from a previous reading of 1.6%.
State-by-state: Jobless claims in two states declined by more than 1,000 in the week ended Sept. 18, which is the most recent state data available. Claims in Florida dropped the most by 1,777. The state attributed the drop to fewer layoffs in the construction, trade, service and manufacturing industries, as well as agriculture.
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