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) -- After hitting a nine-month high last week, new jobless claims dipped lower than expected, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number of new applicants for state unemployment insurance fell by 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 for the week ended Aug. 21. Initial claims data for the week prior also were revised subtly higher by 4,000 to 504,000. New claims were expected to tick lower to 485,000 from the prior week's pre-revised 500,000 total, according to The half-million tally was the highest number of new claims since the fall of 2009.

The moving average of new claims over the past month, which tends to offer a more settled picture of the data against the gyrating week-to-week moves, rose higher by 3,250 to 486,750. But the number of those continuing to apply for jobless benefits slid lower to 4.456 million from 4.518 million.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York.

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