Initial jobless claims fell more than expected last week.

Claims dropped 17,000 to 421,000 in the week ending Dec. 4, the Department of Labor said. The revised figure for the previous week was 438,000.

A survey of analysts by Reuters forecast claims sliding to 425,000 from the previously reported 436,000.

Employers have reduced the number of workers they lay off as the economy shows signs of a slow recovery and consumer spending picks up. Still, there seems little appetite for the kind of large-scale hiring that would make a dent in unemployment.

"Companies are maintaining very, very lean staffing levels," Neil Dutta, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research told Bloomberg News before the report. "It would take a big shock for companies to significantly increase firings but at the same time, they're not hiring."

The four-week moving average, a clearer measure of unemployment trends, fell 4,000, to 427,500, the lowest in more than two years. The revised average for the previous week was 431,500.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on "60 Minutes" that it could take years for unemployment to dip to pre-crisis levels.

"At the rate we're going, it could be four, five years before we are back to a more normal unemployment rate" of about 5 percent to 6 percent," Bernanke said in an interview broadcast Dec. 5.

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Duhhhhh!!!! The unemployment benefits have run out. So these people have simply dropped off the rolls and presto!!! Lower jobless claims, but watch the food stamps of the states skyrocket.

December 10 2010 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

4 or 5 years until we are back to normal..............BULL! It will never come back unless the govt undergoes massive changes. How about giving incentives for working, like stopping unemployment after a reasonable time. I know of employers looking for workers but cannot find them.......and you wonder why. People are not going to work unless they have to. This "nanny" state will pull us all down............yes, even the hard workers........and it is just not right!

December 09 2010 at 10:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have yet to see any real good ideas to put people back to work. I see a lot of crap about stimulating the economy, but very little about real brick and mortar business actions for opening facilities in the US. Even if we stimulate consumer spending a good portion of the money will be sent off-shore as many of the goods we consume are imported. So, where are the jobs? The jobs went to low cost countries, and that is dragging down our standard of living to their levels... I'm glad to see that we've bottomed out for the time being, but unless we do something to increase our domestic production of the goods we consume, decrease the amount that we import, and/or increase the amount that we export... well, our economy is just not going to grow - and unemployment is going to remain high...

December 09 2010 at 9:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Offcoarse the unemployment rate dropped. The only people counted as unemployed are the people recieving unemployment compensation, those that no longer recieve unemployment benefits are not counted whether they are working or not. The unemployment extensions also expire this month which should bring another decline in reported unemployment. The people keeping track of these numbers aren't being intentionally misleading, the fact is, they can only count the people in their system. What I want to know, is what is the reported gross income for the nation for the year, compared to what it was in past years. That would indicate to me whether we are growing or not, reported unemployment rates actually tell us very little.

December 09 2010 at 9:17 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply