RTTNews - The number of people filing first-time unemployment claims dropped last week to the lowest level in more than four months, reinforcing hope that the labor market has begun to stabilize.

Still, while layoffs appear to be slowing down, there are signs that people who have lost their jobs are having problems finding new ones. The government's unemployment roll once again set a new record high, rising above 6.8 million.

The U.S. Labor Department revealed Thursday that initial jobless claims, a closely-watched gauge of layoffs, came in at 601,000 for the week ended at June 6th. This was down 24,000 from the previous week's revised level of 625,000.

The result marked the lowest total for initial jobless claims since the week of January 24th.

Claims have been edging lower since hitting a cycle high of 674,000 in late March. Since then, the statistic has only risen twice over the past 10 weeks, though the totals have remained well in the range that economists consider recessionary.

The 4-week moving average for initial claims, a statistic that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, dipped to 621,750.

Continuing claims, which measures people receiving ongoing unemployment help, pushed further higher, setting yet another record by rising 59,000 to 6.816 million.

A report that came out last Thursday initially showed a drop in continuing claims, but revised information contained in this week's report changed that to a rise of 6,000. So with the revised data and the new reading, continuing claims have been up for 21 consecutive weeks.

The drop in jobless claims further encourages the hope that the labor market has been stabilizing lately.

Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, said of the data, Claims continue to suggest recovery is imminent. He also noted that claims are the best leading indicator of recovery there is.

Last Friday, the government said that the economy lost 345,000 in May - significantly less than the 520,000 that economists were predicting. Still the unemployment rate jumped more than expected, rising to 9.4 percent after coming in at 8.9 percent in the previous month.

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