The number of Americans signing up for unemployment compensation dropped a bit last week, indicating a slight improvement in the troubled U.S. job market.
Thursday's report from the Labor Department says 1,000 fewer people filed initial claims, bringing the nationwide total down to 400,000.
Experts say a healthy job market would see claims fall below 400,000 and stay there for a while.
High unemployment and worries about layoffs are holding back the consumer spending that drives most U.S. economic activity.
Government experts are set to publish the newest unemployment data on Friday, and economists surveyed by news agencies predict the jobless rate will stay steady at 9.2 percent. They also project that the economy will add 85,000 jobs nationwide, which is more than the prior month, but less than enough to cut the high unemployment rate.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.