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Weekly applications for US unemployment aid drop sharply to 343,000, lowest in 2 months

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply for a fourth straight week, a sign that the job market may be improving.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 29,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 343,000, the lowest in two months. It is the second-lowest total this year.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the drop indicates that companies are cutting fewer jobs. But employers also need to step up hiring to rapidly push down the unemployment rate.

Applications spiked five weeks ago because of Superstorm Sandy. The storm's impact has now faded. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 27,000 to 381,500.

Before the storm, applications had fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 this year.

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Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
30 Y Fixed Graph 4.20% dw 4.30%  
15 Y Fixed Graph 3.28% dw 3.30%  
30 Y Fixed Jumbo Graph 4.72% up 4.60%  
5/1 ARM Graph 3.53% up 3.34%  
5/1 Jumbo ARM Graph 3.64% up 3.58%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
$30K HELOC Graph 4.38% -- 4.38%  
$50K HELOC Graph 4.11% -- 4.11%  
$30K Loan Graph 4.98% dw 4.99%  
$50K Loan Graph 4.39% dw 4.40%  
$75K Loan Graph 4.39% dw 4.40%  
Loan Type Graph Rate +/- Last Week
36 M New Graph 2.90% -- 2.90%  
36 M Used Graph 3.41% up 3.40%  
48 M New Graph 3.16% -- 3.16%  
48 M Used Graph 2.91% up 2.90%  
60 M New Graph 3.16% dw 3.17%  
Loan Type Graph Yield +/- Last Week
6 month Graph 0.35% -- 0.35%  
1 yr Graph 0.67% -- 0.67%  
5 yr Graph 1.38% -- 1.38%