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February 6, 2014 8:35 AM, EST
Jobless Claims Decline by 20,000 Last Week

Initial jobless claims declined for the first time in three weeks, the Labor Department reported Feb. 6.

Claims for the week ended Feb. 1 declined by 20,000 to 331,000, Bloomberg News reported.

The number of claims was above analysts’ forecast of 335,000, according to Bloomberg.

“When you look at the labor market, job destruction has been very, very low,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc., told Bloomberg. “It’s really been an issue of new hiring. That hiring, we think, is gradually picking up.”

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, rose to 334,000 from 333,750 the previous week.

Continuing jobless claims for the week ended Jan. 25 rose by 15,000 to 2.96 million.

A separate report by the Labor Department showed productivity of U.S. workers increased 3.2% in the fourth quarter following a 3.6% rise in the third quarter. Economists had forecast worker productivity to rise 2.8%, Bloomberg reported.

Labor costs declined at a 1.6% pace.

When worker efficiency improves at a slower pace and labor becomes more expensive, companies may raise prices in order to guard their profits, contributing to more rapid inflation.