The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 13,000 to 263,000 in the week ended Oct. 3, marking the lowest level since mid-July. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, declined by 3,000 to seasonally adjusted 267,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. The monthly average smooths out fluctuations in the volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. The extremely low number of people applying for unemployment benefits suggests the U.S. labor market is still fairly healthy despite a slowdown in hiring in August and September. Some 2.2 million people were already collecting weekly unemployment checks in the seven days ended Sept. 26. So-called continuing claims were up 9,000 from the prior week.
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