U.S. jobless claims declined last week to the lowest level in months, home sales faltered in August, and the economic outlook dimmed a bit. Thursday's report from the Labor Department says the number of Americans signing up for unemployment assistance fell by 8,000 to a nationwide total of 252,000. Economists say any reading below 300,000 is a sign of a healthy job market. U.S. unemployment, which is tracked by a separate study, was last reported at 4.9 percent, which is less than half the jobless rate during the recession. A separate report showed that U.S. home sales faltered in August, which an industry group blamed on a shortage of homes on the market. The National Association of Realtors said sales slid nine-tenths of a percent for the month. If sales continued for a whole year at August's pace 5.45 million homes would change hands. A separate report from a private group says the overall economic outlook was hurt a bit in August by a slowdown in factory orders and working hours. The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators slid two-tenths of a percent in August.
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