updated 2/1/2007 8:51:00 AM ET 2007-02-01T13:51:00

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 20,000 last week to 307,000.

That improvement pushed the four-week average for claims to the lowest level in nearly a year, indicating that the labor market remains healthy.

The four-week average fell by 4,500 to 304,750, the lowest level since the week of Feb. 25, 2006. The improvement in the claims figure for last week was better than economists had been expecting.

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