updated 4/10/2008 8:42:37 AM ET 2008-04-10T12:42:37

The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, after having hit the highest level in more than two years in the week before.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for jobless benefits totaled 357,000 last week, down by 53,000 from the previous week.

Even with last week’s improvement, the four-week average for claims rose by 2,500 to 378,250, the highest level since early October 2005.

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