The number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in nine months, showing improvement for the long-shaky labor market.

Initial jobless claims dropped by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 381,000 in the week ended Dec. 3, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast claims would fall by 7,000, to 395,000

For the week ended Nov. 26, claims were revised up to 404,000 from an originally reported 402,000.

The four-week moving average of new jobless claims, closely watched by economists since it smoothes out volatile weekly figures, decreased last week by 3,000 to 393,250.

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