Initial jobless claims fell 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 440,000 for the week ending Feb. 6, the largest drop since July, as an administrative backlog of claims appears to have subsided, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

Continuing claims decreased to 4.538 million for the week ending Jan. 30 and are at their lowest level since Jan. 3, 2009.

Economists expected 465,000 initial jobless claims and 4.6 million continuing claims, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Initial claims for the week ending Jan. 30 were revised to 483,000 from the 480,000 reported last week. Continuing claims were revised to 4.617 million from 4.602 million reported for the week ending Jan. 23.

The four-week moving average for initial claims, a less volatile figure, decreased to 468,500 from 469,500, the first decrease in four weeks. The four-week average for continuing claims fell to 4.604 million and has declined for 20 consecutive weeks.

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