Reporting from Washington — The number of people who filed for unemployment benefits dropped again last week, to 390,000, the lowest level since April, continuing a trend that bodes well for job growth.
The number of initial jobless claims was down 10,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 400,000, the Labor Department reported. The initial figure for two weeks ago was 397,000, but was revised upward.
Still, over the last month, the average weekly number of jobless claims is right at 400,000 — a key figure that economists say indicates a decrease in the unemployment rate.
"The wheels of the economy are spinning fast enough to put Americans back to work," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York. "The unemployment rate could fall as much as 1 percentage point over the next year now if these claims data stick at this level."
The government data released Thursday came after sluggish but steady job growth in October. The economy added 80,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 9% from the previous month's 9.1%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.
The weekly unemployment claims report helped give a bit of a boost to the stock market Thursday amid continued concerns about the European debt crisis.