Initial jobless claims bested expectations with a reduction of 29,000 last week, the second straight drop after a troubling rise in the job-market indicator over the month of April.
The claims data, released by the Labor Department on Thursday morning, dropped to 409,000. The figure had been trending lower for months and even fell below 400,000 for four straight weeks in March before spiking to 478,000 two weeks ago -- levels not seen since last August.
The Labor Department had said in earlier releases that the rise primarily reflected seasonal factors and temporary distortions, but the strength of the trend had some analysts worried.
The less volatile four-week average increased to its highest level in half a year as the frame of reference moved past lower numbers in early April to focus squarely on the highest numbers of that month.
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