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.