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Jobless claims fall, suggesting modest hiring

The always-volatile weekly jobless claims data dropped in the latest week, continuing a see-saw pattern that still suggests the economy is creating jobs at a moderate pace.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for jobless claims dropped 23,000 to 369,000, below the 400,000 mark that economists say shows hiring outpacing layoffs. The four-week moving average, which smooths out rough spots in the data, rose 1,500 to 366,500.

A Labor Department analyst said all states submitted data for the report and that there was nothing unusual in the raw data. The analyst said the data showed no signs of the factors that had appeared to generate sharp swings in the claims reading over the prior two weeks.

The U.S. economy remains hobbled by a persistently high jobless rate. Incomes have stagnated and many families are awash in debts taken on during a housing bubble in the last decade.

Recently, however, the economy has shown a few positive signals, with the unemployment rate falling to 7.8 percent and retail sales picking up. Consumer spirits have also brightened.

Those signs of improvement appear to have done little to bolster President Barack Obama's bid for a second term, and there is only one more reading on U.S. unemployment before voters go to the polls on November 6.

Earlier this month, claims swung sharply lower and then higher, which a Labor Department analyst said was likely due to a change in the seasonal pattern that usually manifests at the beginning of the quarter. That distortion in the seasonal data appears to a have passed, the analyst said on Thursday. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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