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U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Pull Back Off Three-Month High

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A day ahead of the release of the more closely watched monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits pulled back by more than expected in the week ended November 26th.

The report said initial jobless claims fell to 225,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week's revised level of 241,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 235,000 from the 240,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims gave back ground after reaching their highest level in three months.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average inched up to 228,750, an increase of 1,750 from the previous week's revised average of 227,000.

The uptick lifted the four-week moving average to its highest level since hitting 232,000 in the week ended September 3rd.

Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also climbed by 57,000 to 1.608 million in the week ended November 19th.

With the increase, continuing claims reached their highest level since hitting 1.664 million in the week ended February 26th.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also rose to a nearly eight-month high of 1,538,750, an increase of 30,250 from the previous week's revised average of 1,508,500.

"Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits can be choppy this time of year, making it difficult to separate the signal from the noise," said Ryan Sweet, Chief US Economist at Oxford Economics. "Therefore, we put more stock in the four-week moving average and that remained well below our estimate of the break-even level."

He added, "The tight labor market allows the Fed to continue to increase the target range for the Fed funds rate, and a 50-basis point hike in December appears to be a slam dunk."

On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched monthly employment report for November.

Economists currently expect employment to jump by 200,000 jobs in November after shooting up by 261,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.7 percent.

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