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[WASHINGTON] Fewer American workers filed for unemployment insurance benefits last week as jobless claims continued to trend at a four-decade low in an improving jobs market, Labour Department data showed Wednesday.
Initial jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, tumbled by 12,000 to 260,000 in the week ending November 21. Claims in the previous week were revised up by 1,000 to 272,000.
At 260,000, claims were near the 256,000 level of 42 years ago.
The sharp drop in claims last week was unexpected, with analysts on average expecting a rise of 1,000.
The Labour Department said there were no particular factors impacting the data. The claims data were released a day earlier than normal, due to the Thanksgiving Day holiday Thursday.
The downward trend in claims remained firmly on track. The four-week moving average was 271,000, unchanged from the prior week. A year ago, the average was 291,750.
The decline in claims has accompanied a slow tightening in the US jobs market. In October, the economy added 271,000 jobs - the strongest growth in the year - and the unemployment rate fell to 5.0 per cent, its lowest level since early 2008.