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U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Show Modest Decrease


First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits showed a modest decrease in the week ended December 28th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday, with claims falling in line with economist estimates.

The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 339,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 341,000. The figure from the previous week was upwardly revised from the 338,000 originally reported.

Jobless claims have seen considerable volatility in recent week, as the Labor Department typically has difficulty performing seasonal adjustments around the holidays.

The Labor Department said its less volatile four-week moving average climbed to 357,250, an increase of 8,500 from the previous week's revised average of 348,750.

Peter Boockvar, managing director at the Lindsey Group, said, "Bottom line, the average over the past two weeks of 340k is about in line with the average seen this year and down from 375k so we are finishing the year with a clear improvement in the downward pace of firing's y/o/y but no real changes seen over the past few months."

"The next question for claims is whether Congress extends emergency benefits again past the 26 weeks that the states currently offer," he added.

The report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, fell to 2.833 million in the week ended December 21st from the preceding week's revised level of 2.931 million.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims edged up to 2,857,750, an increase of 19,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 2,838,750.

Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its report on the employment situation in the month of December.

The Labor Department released a report last month showing that stronger than expected job growth in the month of November pushed the unemployment rate down to a five-year low.

The report showed that non-farm payroll employment rose by 203,000 jobs in November following a revised increase of 200,000 jobs in October. Economists had been expecting employment to increase by about 180,000 jobs.

With the stronger than expected job growth, the unemployment rate pulled back to 7.0 percent in November from 7.3 percent in October. The unemployment rate had been expected to dip to 7.2 percent.

The bigger than expected decrease pulled the unemployment rate down to its lowest level since hitting 6.8 percent in November of 2008.

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