Jobless claims drop by 27,000

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The figures provide an indication of the pace of layoffs in the economy. 

The job market has been gradually improving but employers still aren't hiring at a pace that could really put a dent in the persistently high unemployment level, which stands at 7.9 percent. 

Still, there were 157,000 jobs added in January and job gains during the end of the year were larger than previously estimated, all good news for millions of workers struggling to get back into the labor force. 

Economists are expecting the jobless rate to drop to 7 percent by the end of the year and dip further by 2014.