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US Job Market Improves

February 9, 2012

Layoffs declined last week in the United States, a sign that problems in the job market are easing.

Thursdays' report from the labor Department says the number of people signing up for unemployment assistance fell by 15,000 last week to a nationwide total of 358,000.

That means the number of layoffs fell close to a four-year low.

Economists watch jobless claims as a way of monitoring the number of people fired by struggling businesses. When that number falls well below 400,000, experts say the economy is growing healthy enough to cut the unemployment rate.

The most recent data put the unemployment rate at 8.3 percent in January, which is the lowest level in three years.

We will learn more about the economy next week when experts publish information about retail sales. Economists surveyed by the Bloomberg financial news service predict that January's data will be an improvement over the prior month.

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