updated 8/21/2008 9:11:37 AM ET 2008-08-21T13:11:37

The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, the second straight weekly drop from a six-year high, according to government data released Thursday.

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The Labor Department reported that applications for jobless benefits dropped to 432,000, down by 13,000 from the previous week. It was a bigger improvement than analysts expected.

But claims remain elevated compared with recent years. The four-week average climbed to 445,750, the highest level in almost seven years.

Unemployment claims have increased in the past several weeks, partly reflecting an outreach effort by the Labor Department to notify people of a 13-week benefit.

Several companies have announced job cuts recently, including newspaper publisher Gannett Co. Inc., which said it would lay off 600 workers.

Ford Motor Co. said it would lay off 300 workers at an engine plant, and chip designer Rambus Inc. said it would cut 90 jobs.

Employers cut 51,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department reported earlier this month, pushing the unemployment rate to 5.7 percent.

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