Reuters (02/28/13) Lucia Mutikani
The number of people who applied for jobless benefits dropped in the most recent weekly data, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report that signals continued labor-market gains even as the economy faces massive federal spending cuts. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 22,000 to 344,000 in the week ended Feb. 23. Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 360,000. Longer-term claims trends also point to improvement. The average of new claims over the past month, which smooths out weekly volatility, fell 6,750 to 355,000.