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The number of people filing for unemployment for the first time dropped by 5,000 last week, hitting its lowest level since February 2008. The U.S. Department of Labor's initial figure for last week's new unemployment applicants was 348,000, down from the previous week's 353,000 and the fewest in more than four years.* The four-week moving average, which is seen as a more stable number, was 355,000, down 1,250 from the previous week's 356,250. Since unemployment climbed dramatically over the course of 2008, it's good to watch this weekly barometer ratchet back to levels seen earlier and earlier in that year. In January 2012, weekly first-time unemployment applications hit their lowest number since April 2008. Now it's back to February. If only the national unemployment rate would climb back down at the same rate. It's at 8.3 now, but in February 2008 it was at 4.8.

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