Sep. 6, 2012 at 8:45 AM ET
New claims for unemployment insurance dropped more than expected, the government reported Thursday, boosting hopes that the job market would pick up some momentum after languishing for most of the summer.
The Labor Department reported that seasonally-adjusted jobless claims dropped 12,000 to 365,000, its lowest level in a month and its first decline since the week ended August 4. The four-week moving average, which smooths out wrinkles in the data, rose 250 to 371,250.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 370,000 last week. The prior week's figure was revised up to show 3,000 more applications than previously reported.
A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the data and no sign Hurricane Isaac affected the level of claims. The storm hit the U.S. Gulf Coast last week, disrupting business at the region's ports, airports and oil refineries.
The report has no direct bearing on Friday's monthly employment report for August, which is expected to show nonfarm payrolls rose by a modest 125,000 last month, while the unemployment rate is seen staying the same at 8.3 percent.
The state of the labor market, particularly the unemployment rate, could determine whether the Federal Reserve will offer additional monetary stimulus to the economy at its September 12-13 policy meeting.
The unemployment rate has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years.
Although housing and retail sales data suggest that economic activity picked up early in the third quarter, business spending is weakening and inflation is slowing.
In the week ended August 25, the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell to 3.322 million, the Labor Department said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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