Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications forunemployment benefits last week, easing concern the labor marketmay weaken in the second half.

Jobless claims decreased by 12,000 to 365,000 in the week endedSept. 1, the fewest in a month, the Labor Department reported todayin Washington. The median estimate of 48 economists surveyed byBloomberg called for a drop to 370,000.

Employers are limiting firings as demand warrants holding on tocurrent workers, helping support consumer spending, the biggestpart of the economy. At the same time, weak hiring and unemploymentexceeding 8 percent pose a “grave concern,” Federal ReserveChairman Ben S. Bernanke said last week as he made a case forfurther monetary easing.

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