NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week, but continued to drift in the same range they have been for about a year, signaling ongoing weakness in the labor market.
There were 452,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Oct. 16, down 23,000 from an upwardly revised 475,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting 455,000 new claims.
The weekly figure has been stuck in a narrow range since last November, hovering in the mid- to upper-400,000 range, and even ticking slightly above 500,000 in mid-August.
The 4-week moving average of initial claims -- a number that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility -- was 458,000, down 4,250 from the previous week.
"The underlying trend in claims still looks resolutely flat, which means we see little chance of any sustained improvement in the private sector payroll numbers any time soon," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
Shepherdson added that in order for jobless claims to drop meaningfully, the credit environment, particularly for small businesses, must improve. He expects those better conditions will gradually emerge over the next year.
Continuing claims: The government said 4,441,000 people filed unemployment claims for their second week or more, during the week ended Oct. 9, the most recent data available. That's down 9,000 from an upwardly revised 4,450,000 the week before.
Economists were expecting 4,400,000 people to file ongoing claims.
The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 23,250 to 4,478,000.
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.
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