Fewer people signed up for unemployment benefits last week, raising a hopeful sign that the recent weakness in the jobs market won't be long lasting.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications filed for jobless benefits dropped by a sharp 15,000 to 298,000 last week, sinking to a four-month low. That was a much better showing than economists were expecting. They were forecasting claims to rise to around 320,000.
In early September, the department reported that the economy lost jobs for the first time in four years. Employers cut 4,000 jobs in August as troubles in the housing market and worries about the credit crunch made businesses more cautious in their hiring. Economists are predicting a rebound in job creation for September. That report is due out next week.