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Jobless claims fall sharply, recover from Sandy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a fourth straight week last week, pointing to steady healing in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 29,000 to a seasonally adjusted 343,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's figure was revised to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Last week's drop left new claims at their lowest since the week of October 6, and well below the levels just before superstorm Sandy, which slammed into the East Coast in late October and triggered several weeks of volatile claims numbers.

The four-week moving average for new claims, seen as a better measure of labor market trends, dropped 27,000 to 381,500. That was the lowest level since the week of November 3.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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