The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits continued to fall last week, in another sign that the weak labor market is slowly improving.

Separately, home construction in the U.S. rose in November on the strength of the single-family market, a faint sign of hope for the beleaguered industry. Meanwhile, the U.S. current account deficit widened in the third quarter, reflecting rising imports of consumer goods.

Initial unemployment claims fell by 3,000 to 420,000 in the week ended Dec. 11, the Labor Department said in its weekly report. The previous week’s figures were revised slightly upward to 423,000 from 421,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected claims would rise by 4,000.

The four-week moving average, which aims to smooth out volatility in the data, continued to fall for the sixth consecutive week. The average declined by 5,250 to 422,750 from the prior week’s revised average of 428,000 to its lowest level since Aug. 2, 2008.

The gradual decline in initial claims is a welcome sign after the Labor Department released a disappointing November unemployment report.

That report found that unemployment has climbed to 9.8% — its highest level since April. Nonfarm payrolls only rose by a 39,000, and millions who want to work still can’t find jobs. It also raised questions as to whether the economic recovery was finally beginning to gain some ground.

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