WASHINGTON (AP) - New requests for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week after rising in the past three weeks. Still, claims remain much higher than they would be in a healthy economy.
The Labor Department says new claims for jobless aid dropped by 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000. Wall Street economists had expected a smaller drop, according to surveys by Thomson Reuters.
The drop comes after a steep rise during the previous three weeks that sent claims to their highest level in nine months. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 486,750, the most since November 2009.
And the total unemployment benefit rolls are still climbing, as more people join extended unemployment aid programs that were renewed last month by Congress.