Dec. 14, 2006 -- New claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 20,000 to 304,000 last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

The national insured unemployment rate for the week ending Dec. 2 was 1.9 percent, unchanged from the previous week, the report said.

The biggest declines last week were in Texas, Wisconsin, and Arkansas, while gains were reported in North Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, the report said.

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