Americans now losing their jobs at pre-recession rates

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Some good news in the US today—only 323,000 applications for unemployment insurance were made in the last week of August. That’s the lowest level in nearly five years and heading towards the rate seen before the housing bubble popped.

While the number of applications for unemployment insurance doesn’t exactly correspond to the number of lay-offs, it’s still a useful way to look at how many people are losing their jobs. The result bodes well for tomorrow’s  all-too-influential jobs report, where a positive result will reinforce expectations that the Federal Reserve will begin pulling back its $85-billion-a-month stimulus efforts. That, though, probably won’t help with a problem that’s even tougher than stopping job loss: Dealing with the US’s still enormous population people out of work for six months or more.