New claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since July, inspiring hopes that the U.S. job market is on the upswing. The number of jobless claims fell 26,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 359,000 in the week ending Sept. 22, the Labor Department reported. Weakness in the job market has persisted amid worries over the so-called “fiscal cliff” of higher taxes and government spending cuts set to occur in January. Ongoing debt problems in Europe and slowing global growth has also kept employers cautious about hiring, NBC News reported. Unemployment has been stuck at over 8 percent for more than three years, the first time since the Great Depression. Persistently high unemployment and paltry job gains spurred the Federal Reserve's decision to launch a third round of bond-buying this month to spur growth. In other economic news Thursday, new orders for durable goods -- long-lasting manufactured goods – fell 13.2 percent last month, the largest drop since January 2009, Reuters reported. The dive reflected weak aircraft and automobile demand. For example, Boeing received only one aircraft order in August, down from 260 in July.