New claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, reaching the lowest level since April 2008 and providing another sign of improvement for the weak labor market.

Initial jobless claims declined by 4,000, to a seasonally adjusted 364,000, in the week ended Dec. 17, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast claims would rise by 14,000, to 380,000.

The decline carried claims to the lowest since the week ending April 19, 2008, and marked the third drop in a row. For the week ended Dec. 10, claims were revised slightly up to 368,000 from an originally reported 366,000.

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