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Weekly jobless claims down; personal income and spending up

WASHINGTON -- The government reported more positive signs for the economic recovery Thursday as initial jobless claims dropped last week and consumers' personal income and spending rose in May.

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time fell to 346,000 in the week ending Saturday, down from a revised 355,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said.

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The drop was in line with analyst projections and brings the figure below the 350,000 level that economists say is consistent with moderate labor market growth.

The four-week average, a less-volatile gauge, fell to 345,750, down 2,750 from the previous week.

The 0.5% increase in personal income in May, reported by the Commerce Department, exceeded analyst expectations of a 0.2% rise.

The figure was an improvement over April's 0.1% increase and shows consumers had more money to spend.

That was reflected in the spending figures for May. Personal consumption expenditures rose by 0.3% last month after declining by 0.3% in April.

The new data indicate that economic growth is rebounding in the second quarter after a weak first three months of the year.

Last week, Federal Reserve officials expressed more optimism about the economy and indicated they would start tapering their bond-buying stimulus program later this year.

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