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) -- The number of Americans filing unemployment claims for the first dropped more than expected last week, the Labor Department said early Thursday.

Initial jobless claims dropped by 29,000 to 409,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended May 14, from an upwardly revised 438,000. Economists were expecting jobless claims to drop to 420,000 from the previous week's originally reported figure of 434,000, according to


Continuing claims for the week ended May 7 dropped 81,000 to 3.71 million from the preceding week's revised level of 3.792 million. Economists were expecting continuing claims of 3.7 million.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.0 percent for the week ending May 7, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate of 3.0 percent.

The four-week moving average in initial jobless claims was 439,000, an increase of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average of 437,750. The four-week moving average in continuing claims was 3.728 million, an increase of 750 from the previous week's revised average of 3.727 million.

Jobless claims have been elevated in recent weeks, though economists have said the data is too erratic to draw conclusions about the health of the employment market. Economists hope to see claims closer to 400,000 and below over several weeks for signs that the jobs recovery is on track.

Stock futures stayed up following the report. The

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, the


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and the

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were gaining 0.3% each.

-- Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

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Shanthi Bharatwaj


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