WASHINGTON (AP) — After calamitous losses on Wall Street and fears of another recession, the economy got a dose of good news Thursday: The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell below 400,000 for the first time since April.

Layoffs are easing in most states, and some economists are predicting mild improvement in job growth.

The brighter outlook was enough to catapult stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average rose more than 300 points in midday trading, and broader indexes also increased.

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