updated 8/31/2006 9:56:06 AM ET 2006-08-31T13:56:06

The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped slightly last week, indicating continued underlying strength in the labor market.

The Labor Department reported that 316,000 Americans filed for jobless benefits, a drop of 2,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average for claims rose by 1,000 last week to 317,500.

The government will report on unemployment for August on Friday, with many economists expecting that the economy created a modest 125,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate is expected to dip slightly from a five-month high of 4.8 percent hit in July down to 4.7 percent.

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