Washington (AP) -- The total number of people on the unemployment insurance rolls has dropped for the first time since early January, while first-time claims for benefits rose slightly.
Ohio had the third largest increase in new claims, up by 5,104 because of auto industry layoffs.
The Labor Department says the total unemployment insurance rolls fell by 148,000 to 6.69 million, the largest drop in more than seven years and a sign that layoffs are easing.
The drop also breaks a string of 21 straight increases, the last 19 of which were record-highs.
A dip in continuing claims several weeks ago was later revised higher.
The department also says initial claims rose 3,000 to 608,000, above analysts' expectations.
The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, fell 7,000 to 615,750.
(Copyright 2009 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)