FILE-In this Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, file photo, job applicants wait for the opening of a job fair held by National Career Fairs in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A spate of data released Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, painted a mixed picture of the U.S. economy.  Demand for long-lasting manufactured goods fell and slightly fewer people signed contracts to buy homes. At the same time, the job market looked a little better. Taken together, the reports suggest the economy is growing only modestly and not quickly enough to spur much hiring.National Journal

The number of jobless claims fell to its lowest level in four and a half years last week at 339,000, the Labor Department announced on Thursday.

Dropping by 30,000 applications, this could offer a sign of an improving job market and more hiring in the coming months. It is also lower than the 370,000 claims some economists had originally forecast, Bloomberg reports.

The decrease can be tied to one large state that showed a major drop in applications, which stands in contrast to increases in many other states, Bloomberg reports.

Weekly unemployment applications, which are often an indicator for layoffs and other changes in the employment landscape, have generally shifted from week to week, the Associated Press reports. A drop below 375,000 claims consistently suggests strong hiring.

Last week, the Labor Department announced that for the first time since President Obama took office, the unemployment rate hit 7.8 percent, a number lower than many economists predicted.

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