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US Jobless Benefit Claims Drop to Five-Year Low, Stocks Hit Record Highs

Career center specialist Sun Gaddis (L) helps job seeker Kaston Joshua (C), while Rudy Martin looks on at WorkSource Oregon, in Tualatin, Oregon, July 2012.
The U.S. government says the number of Americans making their first claims for jobless benefits fell last week to the lowest level in more than five years.

The government said Thursday that 326,000 people sought unemployment compensation, a drop of 19,000 from the previous week. It is the lowest weekly total since January 2008.

The dip in the number of jobless claims signals that employers are laying off fewer workers.

The good news on jobs sent stocks to another record high Thursday. The Dow Jones rose 128 points and the Standard & Poors 500 closed at 1,707 - its all-time high.

The government is set Friday to release its monthly jobs and employment report for July. Analysts predict the country added another 183,000 jobs last month and and that the unemployment rate will fall to 7.5 percent. The U.S. has added more than 200,000 jobs a month since January.

Financial analyst Greg McBride at told VOA the U.S. economy needs to add even more jobs before the jobless rate dips significantly.

"We'll see continued job growth, but it's at a pace that makes for nice headlines but really doesn't do much to move the needle in terms of getting people back to work. If we see 175,000, 200,000 new jobs, I mean that's nice, but you know what we really need to be seeing on a consistent basis is something north of 250,000 jobs a month, so that we can not only account for population growth, but actually get all those unemployed, particularly long-term unemployed, back to work, rather than seeing the unemployment rate drop because people are giving up their job search altogether," said McBride.