Jobless claims continue declining

Applications for unemployment benefits dropped again last week as employers laid off fewer workers, which could signal a turning point for the labor market. 

Those seeking jobless benefits dropped 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 316,000, falling to levels last seen before the recession started in December 2007, the Labor Department reported on Wednesday. 

The four-week average, which provides a better indication as to the health of the labor market, dropped 7,500 to 331,750, also back to prerecession levels.

Weekly claims, which have dropped in six of the past seven weeks, have moderated since spiking because of the 16-day government shutdown and some computer upgrades that drove up the figures. 

Employers added 204,000 jobs in October, and November's numbers could approach those levels, indicating that companies mostly ignored the government shutdown. 

November's figures are out next Friday and economists, at this point, are expecting the addition of about 175,000 jobs. 

While the jobless rate could fall to 7.2 percent, it is still much higher than what is seen in a healthy labor market.

That has led the Federal Reserve to stick with its $85 billion in monthly stimulus.

But the central bank might re-evaluate that policy in late December if the labor market shows some solid gains, especially if those figures reflect that employers kept hiring even with the uncertainty around the government shutdown.