Initial jobless claims dropped to 409,000, a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 421,000, the Labor department announced today. First-time applications had been higher the last two weeks because of the Verizon strike, which ended last week. Initial claims have remained above 400,000 for the last 20 out of 21 months. The benchmark for sustainable job growth is considered to be 375,000. They have not been at this level since February. The four-week moving average, a less volatile number that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, was 410,250, an increase of 1,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 408,500. The number of Americans filing for continuing unemployment claims during the week ending Aug. 20 was 3,735,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,753,000. The four-week moving average was 3,726,000, a decrease of 3,250 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,729,250. States reported 3,118,042 persons claiming emergency unemployment benefits in the week ended Aug. 13 (the most recent data available), an increase of 31,261 from the prior week. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs ending Aug. 13 was 7,336,276, an increase of 45,531 from the previous week. The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Aug.20 were in California, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Oregon, and Rhode Island. The largest decreases were in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, and South Carolina.