By The Associated Press
APPLICATIONS FALL: The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plunged 26,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, a hopeful sign for the job market. It's the lowest level of weekly applications in nine weeks.
VOLATILE FIGURES: The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, declined to 374,000, the first drop in six weeks. Economists tend to focus on the four-week average.
TEPID HIRING: Even with the drop, the average is still at a level that points to modest hiring. Most economists expect job gains to be about 100,000 this month, similar to August's gain of 96,000.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.