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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in 10 months last week, evidence that job cuts are easing as the economy slowly heals.
Still, companies are reluctant to hire and economists expect the unemployment rate will tick up to 9.9 percent when October's figure is reported Friday.
The Labor Department says first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 512,000. Economists had expected 523,000 new claims.
The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, dropped to 523,750, its ninth straight decline.
The number of people claiming benefits for more than a week fell by 68,000 to 5.75 million, above analysts' estimates but its eighth fall in nine weeks.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)