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) -- In its latest weekly snapshot, the Labor Department said the number of first-timers applying for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.

According to the report released on Thursday morning, the initial jobless claims figure landed at a seasonally adjusted 521,000, which marks the lowest number of claims since January. As many consider the figure a window into the labor market's overall health, the downward trend from the previous week's revised 554,000 total may offer a hint into the pace of job losses.

Economists had expected first-time claims for unemployment insurance to fall to only 540,000 from the prior week's pre-revised 551,000 total.

The four-week moving average for initial jobless claims, too, dropped by 9,000 to 539,750. The metric tends to iron-out the potentially abrasive week-to-week gyrations in the numbers.

Meanwhile, another 72,000 dropped off the Labor Department's continuing-rolls statistics, as the number of those continuing to receive unemployment benefits also fell to 6.04 million.

Despite the recent weekly upswing in initial claims figures, many anticipate jobless statistics to remain sluggish in the near-term. Last Friday, the Labor Department also reported that employers cut a deeper-than-expected 263,000 from payrolls in September, while the unemployment rate rose a tenth of a point to 9.8%.

Just yesterday, computer manufacturer


(DELL) - Get Free Report

announced plans to close a facility in North Carolina, slashing 905 jobs in the process. According to

The Associated Press



(TKR) - Get Free Report

also announced the shutdown of a Bucyrus, Ohio-based distribution facility, cutting 300 jobs in the process. On Tuesday, according to a report from the blog


, unnamed sources said gaming giant


(ATVI) - Get Free Report

laid off around 30 workers at its 7 Studios unit.

-- Written by Sung Moss in New York

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