Initial jobless claims fell below 400,000 for the first time since early April last week. The Labor Department said the seasonally adjusted figure of actual initial claims for the week ended July 23 decreased by 24,000 to 398,000 from an upwardly revised 422,000 the previous week. Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected 425,000 new jobless claims last week with a range of estimates between 405,000 and 436,000. Most economists believe weekly jobless claims lower than 400,000 indicate the economy is expanding and jobs growth is strengthening. The four-week moving average, which is considered a less volatile indicator than weekly claims, declined by 8,500 to 413,750 from the prior week’s slightly revised 422,250. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate for the week ended July 16 slid back to 2.9% from 3% the prior week, according to the Labor Department. The total number of people receiving some sort of federal unemployment benefits for the week ended July 9 rose to more than 7.6 million from 7.3 million the prior week. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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