US jobless claims fall to 2008 levels

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell sharply last week to a near four-year low and retail sales rebounded last months – hopeful signs for the struggling economic recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment aid fell for a fourth straight week, dropping 29,000 to a seasonally adjusted 343,000, the US Labor Department said yesterday. They are now at their lowest level since early October and within a hair of territory last seen in early 2008.

Another report suggested that consumer spending picked up last month despite fears that Washington will fail to avoid harsh austerity measures that could trigger a recession. Worries over the “fiscal cliff” hit hard early this month.

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