WASHINGTON — Initial jobless claims dropped by 17,000 to 421,000 for the week ending Dec. 4, as the four-week moving average for new filings declined for the fifth straight week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Continuing claims dropped to 4,086,000 for the week ending Nov. 27, the lowest level in more than two years.

Economists expected 426,000 initial claims and 4.25 million continuing claims, according to Thomson Reuters.

Initial claims for the week ending Nov. 20 were revised to 438,000 from 436,000 reported last week. Continuing claims for the week ending Nov. 23 were revised to 4,277,000 from 4,270,000.

“New jobless claims have broken to the downside in the last five weeks, suggesting that labor markets may finally be improving,” Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics, said in a research note.

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