Unemployment claims drop; durable goods orders weak The Labor Department says applications fell to a seasonally adjusted 353,000, down from a revised 388,000 the previous week. It was the biggest drop since February 2011. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 8,750 to 367,250, lowest since the end of March. Economists view the recent numbers with skepticism, noting that the government struggles to adjust claims figures to reflect temporary summer layoffs in the auto industry. Many automakers are foregoing the typical shutdowns because stronger sales have kept plants busier. When applications are consistently below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. A second report Thursday said that business cut back orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods last month, outside aircraft and other transportation equipment. That suggests the sluggish economy is weakening manufacturing. Weekly unemployment claims The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6% in June. That matched May's increase. But excluding transportation equipment, orders actually fell 1.1%, third drop in four months. Durable goods are products meant to last three years, such as steel, autos and computers. Orders for so-called core capital goods, a measure of business investment plans, fell 1.4%. That's the second drop in three months and indicates companies are growing more cautious about spending as the economic outlook darkens.