MIAMI (CBS4) – As the Great Recession continues to ravage Main Street, there was a sliver of good news on Thursday. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest point in more than two years.

Applications dropped by 34,000 to 388,000, which was the lowest rate since July 2008. The Labor Department said the level of applications has either fallen or remained unchanged in five of the past six weeks.

Economists said that applications need to fall to a consistent level of 375,000 or below to indicate a significant decline in unemployment. The peak for unemployment benefit applications peaked in March 2009 at 651,000.

The four-week average dropped by 12,500 to 414,000 for the week ending December 25, which was also the lowest level since July 2008.

Unemployment applications stayed around 450,000 until November when they began dropping. The four-week average has dropped by more than 40,000 in the past two months. Economists say that’s a sign hiring could pick up in the coming months.

Employers added a net total of only 39,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department said earlier this month, and the unemployment rose to 9.8 percent. Most economists expect the December jobs report will show larger job gains.

The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose in the week ending Dec. 18 to 4.13 million. About 4.5 million people are receiving extended benefits for up to 99 weeks. All told, nearly 8.9 million people obtained unemployment benefits in the week ending Dec. 11, the latest data available.


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