WASHINGTON -- The total number of people on the unemployment insurance rolls has dropped for the first time since early January, while first-time claims for benefits rose slightly.
The Labor Department says the total unemployment insurance rolls fell by 148,000 to 6.76 million, the largest drop in more than seven years and a sign that layoffs are easing.
The drop also breaks a string of 21 straight increases, the last 19 of which were record-highs. A dip in continuing claims several weeks ago was later revised higher.
The department also says initial claims rose 3,000 to 608,000, above analysts' expectations. The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, fell 7,000 to 615,750.