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US Jobless Benefit Claims Fall to Five-Year Low

New claims for jobless benefits fell again last week in the U.S., another sign that the country's labor market is improving.

The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday that 332,000 unemployed workers made initial claims for assistance last week, down 10,000 from the previous week. That pushed the four-week average below 347,000 -- the lowest level since March 2008, in the initial stages of the country's worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

Economists say that declining claims for jobless benefits are a reflection of fewer worker layoffs, which are down 13 percent since November.

The U.S. last week reported that its jobless rate in February dropped to 7.7 percent, still high by the country's historic standards but its lowest level in four years. In addition, the size of the labor market advanced sharply, adding 236,000 new jobs last month.

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