WASHINGTON — Initial jobless claims fell 11,000 to 445,000 the week ending Oct. 2, the lowest level of initial claims since July, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Continuing claims fell to 4.462 million the week ending Sept. 25 to post a fourth straight decline and dip below the 4.5 million mark for the first time since June. Economists expected 453,000 initial claims and 4.460 million continuing claims.

"The jobs data is mixed, and tends to lag overall economic growth, which means that the current slack that we are seeing in the labor market is probably more reflective of the weakness that we have seen since last spring than what is to come," Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, wrote. "Indeed, growth is expected to reaccelerate slightly in the fourth and first quarters."

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