Published: Jun 03, 2010 1:44 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 03, 2010 10:44 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - New claims for unemployment insurance fell for

the second straight week, fresh evidence the job market is slowly

improving.

Still, the declines come after a sharp increase three weeks ago,

and claims remain at elevated levels.

The Labor Department says initial claims for jobless benefits

dropped last week by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 453,000. That

nearly matches analysts' estimates of 450,000.

The number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by 31,000

to 4.67 million. Analysts had expected the total benefit rolls to

remain level.

Employers are starting to ramp up hiring as the economy recovers

from the worst recession since the 1930s, but not quickly enough to

bring down the jobless rate.