Jobless claims continue to slide

Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in almost six years, signaling the U.S. job market continues to mend.

The number of initial applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 15,000 to 320,000 in the week ended Aug. 10, the fewest since October 2007, from a revised 335,000, a U.S. Labor Department report stated today in Washington, D.C.

“The labor market is improving,” Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, told Bloomberg News. “We’ve got decent momentum on consumer spending” heading into the third quarter, he said.

In Wisconsin, the number of initial jobless claims declined to 7,756 from 7,963 last week, according to the latest estimate by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Meanwhile, confidence among U.S. homebuilders is at its highest level in nearly eight years, fueled by optimism that demand for new homes will drive sales growth into next year.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Builder Sentiment Index jumped to 59 this month from 56 in July, its highest level since November of 2005.

A reading above 50 indicates more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.

Despite the positive macroeconomic news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 170 points this morning, as investors weighed a downgraded outlook for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. announced it will lay off more than 4,000 employees.

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