New applications for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week as General Motors and other manufacturers skipped their usual summer shutdowns.
    The Labor Department says that new claims dropped by 29,000 to
429,000, the lowest level since August 2008.
    A Labor Department analyst says the decline resulted from fewer layoffs by manufacturing companies than usual this time of year. General Motors said last month that it would forgo its customary two-week summer factory closings, which it uses to retool plants for new car models.
    That usually causes a spike in temporary layoffs and jobless claims in early July. Other manufacturers also reported fewer temporary layoffs than expected, the analyst added.
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