Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000 in the week ended Sept. 22, the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. That’s the lowest level since late July. The number was far better than economists were anticipating. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting the number to fall to 379,000. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, declined by 4,000 to 374,000. Continuing claims decreased by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.27 million in the week ended Sept. 15.