US jobless claims slip to 339,000

First-time claims for US unemployment benefits slipped last week as the distressed labor market slowly improves, official data released Thursday showed.

New jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, dropped to 339,000 in the week ending November 9, from the prior week's upwardly revised figure of 341,000, the Labor Department said.

Last week's reading was higher than the 330,000 claims analysts projected and the prior week's reading was revised 5,000 claims higher.

The week-on-week numbers tend to be volatile. The four-week moving average dropped to 344,000 claims, a decline of 5,750.

The jobs market is still struggling to recover from the severe recession that ended more than four years ago, with the unemployment rate at 7.3 percent in October.

"While jobless claims were volatile in September and October, due to the combination of a computer system upgrade in California and the government shutdown, these effects appear to have faded, as claims have settled into a trend modestly higher than the 330,000 average during August (the last month for which there were no major disruptions)," Cooper Howes of Barclays Research said.