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The Labor Department said today new jobless claims fell more than expected last week but the number of people continuing to receive unemployment insurance set a record for the 11th straight week.

Initial jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 654,000, down from the revised 674,000, the previous week. 674,000 was the highest number of initial claims in the current recession and the most in 26 years. Analysts expected claims to drop to 660,000.

Unfortunately though the total number of non-farm unemployed workers still receiving benefits rose to 5.84 million, from 5.75 million. That was the highest number of unemployed since 1967 and higher than analysts expected.

The 4 week moving average, which smooths out the peaks and valleys, fell to 657,250, the first drop after 11 straight increases.

Initial claims reflect the pace of layoffs by companies and are considered a timely, if volatile, measure of the economy. A year ago, claims stood at 358,000.

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