Jobless claims fall more than expected

Washington, D.C. -- A report released Thursday by the Labor Department said that U.S. claims for initial jobless benefits last week posted their biggest decline in nearly a year.

The drop erased the holiday-related spike, and illustrated that a healthier labor market remains intact.

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits dropped sharply to 404,000 from a downwardly revised reading of 441,000 in the prior week, according to the report. The 37,000 drop in claims was the biggest since the week that ended Feb. 6, when claims fell by 51,000.

Analysts had expected weekly jobless claims to fall to 420,000.

A big spike in the week ended Jan. 8 may have reflected a backlog of claims built up over the holiday season.

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