Rain chances possible starting middle of next week

Unemployment benefits drop to 331k

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The weekly job benefits reports is out, and the number of applicants is essentially flat.

The number of unemployed Americans seeking jobless benefits bumped up slightly by 1,000 last week, to a seasonally adjusted 326,000. The four-week average – considered a more stable measure – fell for the third week in a row to 331,500.

The numbers are close to pre-recession levels. Analysts suggest they indicate that companies are laying off fewer workers.

The unemployment rate is still high, however, around 6.7%.

Nearly 1.4 million people who have been unemployed longer than six months lost benefits earlier this month, as congress failed to pass a further extension of the program.

Though there are some signs that economic growth is improving – including boosts in consumer confidence and retail spending – analysts say the economy is still far from healthy.