Jobless claims

Initial unemployment claims fell last week to 316,000, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. Above, a job seeker fills out paperwork during a Los Angeles job fair last month. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg / October 10, 2013)

Layoffs appear to be easing as the number of people who filed for unemployment claims last week dropped by 10,000 to 316,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported Wednesday. 

The number of initial unemployment claims has decreased in six of the last seven weeks, data show. The four-week moving average, a more reliable measure that irons out weekly volatility, fell by 7,500 to 331,750, the Labor Department said. 

A year ago, the four-week moving average was 401,000.

California recorded the largest drop in initial jobless claims. Not adjusted for seasonality, the data show that claims in the Golden State fell by 4,644, largely due to fewer layoffs in the service industry, state officials reported. 

States did not report any special factors that contributed to the drop in jobless claims, a signal that layoffs are easing, the Labor Department said.

The economy produced a surprisingly strong 204,000 jobs in October, and the downward trend in initial claims for jobless benefits suggests that the pickup in the job market carried into November.  

Last month, the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 7.3%, still above the normal 5% to 6% range in a robust economy.

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