WASHINGTON (MNI) - Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits were much lower than forecast in the September 21 week, dropping 5,000 to 305,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Expectations for this week's report was for a claims level of 330,000, an increase of 21,000 from the previously reported 309,000 level in the September 14 week. The initial claims level in that week was revised slightly higher to 310,000.

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