Unemployment claims fall

New filings for unemployment claims fell last week, and the total number of workers receiving jobless benefits dropped to a 41⁄2-year low — further signs of the gradual recovery in the labor market.

The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims for jobless benefits fell to 341,000 in the week ended Feb. 9, from a revised 368,000 the prior week. The decline of 27,000 filings was much bigger than what many economists had forecast, but the data have bounced up and down this year.

— Staff and wire reports

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