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WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (AFP) – The number of Americans lodging new

claims for jobless benefits plummeted unexpectedly last week to a

near three-year low, the government said Thursday.

New claimant numbers plunged 43,000 to 348,000 in the week

ending November 1, the lowest level since the week George W. Bush

was inaugurated president on January 20, 2001, the seasonally

adjusted data showed.

A four-week average of new claims dropped 10,000 to 380,000, the

lowest since March 10, 2001.

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