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There were fewer people filing for jobless claims last week, but no one seems heartened by that news. According to the latest weekly Labor Department figures:

In the week ending September 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 423,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 432,000. The 4-week moving average was 421,000, an increase of 500 from the previous week's revised average of 420,500.

Economists polled by both Reuters and Bloomberg News had expected claims to fall down to 420,000. The Wall Street Journal described one Labor official saying that "no special factors had influenced the latest numbers." Since the claims remain above the 400,000 mark, economists cited in news reports still don't seem optimistic about a job turn-around. "These numbers are consistent with a job market that is essentially in suspended animation," said one to Bloomberg, a quote that conjures up an image of a cartoon businessman frozen-in-time.

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