Initial jobless claims in the week ending Oct. 8 were a better than expected 404,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s figure of 405,000, the Commerce Department announced today. The four-week moving average, a less volatile number that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, was 408,000, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 415,000, and the lowest average in eight weeks. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 405,000 from the previously reported 401,000, the newspaper reported. The number of Americans filing for continuing unemployment claims during the week ending Oct. 1 was 3,670,000, a decrease of 55,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 3,725,000. The four-week moving average was 3,724,000, a decrease of 21,250 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,745,250. States reported 3,016,035 persons claiming emergency unemployment benefits in the week ended Sept. 24 (the most recent data available), a decrease of 11,412 from the prior week. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs ending Sept. 24 was 6,821,585, a decrease of 39,203 from the previous week. The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Oct. 1 were in California, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, and Washington. The largest decreases were in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The modest dip in first-time jobless claims indicates a decline in layoffs, but other data released this week sends mixed signals about the direction of the economy. In September, the economy generated 103,000 net jobs, but 45,000 of these were the return to work of Verizon workers who had been on strike. The Labor Department said yesterday that companies posted fewer job openings in August than the previous month, the first decline in four months, a sign, analysts say, that companies remain reluctant hirers. But another Labor Department report released yesterday found that employers laid off less people in August than they did in July. But political gridlock continued as the Senate this week blocked President Obama's jobs creation package. The unemployment rate has been stuck at 9.1 percent for three months, which stayed at 9.1% for a third month.