Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 6,000 to a
seasonally adjusted 289,000 for the week ended Dec. 13, the Labor
Department said on Thursday.
The report came a day after the Federal Reserve offered an upbeat
assessment of the labor market and the broader economy, and signaled
it could start raising interest rates next year.
The U.S. central bank, which has kept its short-term interest rate
near zero since December 2008, lowered its unemployment rate
forecast on Wednesday. Many economists expect the first rate hike in
Yields on U.S. Treasuries held at higher levels after the claims
data, while U.S. stock index futures were trading higher. The dollar
was slightly stronger against a basket of currencies.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging up to
295,000 last week. The prior week's data was revised to show 1,000
more applications received than previously reported.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure
of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility,
slipped by 750 to 298,750.
Last week's data covered the period during which the government
surveyed employers for December's nonfarm payrolls.
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The four-week average of claims rose by 11,000 between the November
and December survey periods, suggesting a step back in job growth
after payrolls surged by 321,000 last month. The December payrolls
are still expected to come in above 200,000.
Job gains have exceeded 200,000 for 10 straight months, the longest
such stretch since 1994.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors
influencing last week's claims data.
The report showed the number of people still receiving benefits
after an initial week of aid fell by 147,000 to 2.37 million in the
week ended Dec. 6.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)
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