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Jobless claims fall to eight-week low amid holidays

By Michelle Jamrisko Bloomberg

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits declined to the lowest level in eight weeks, showing volatility typical around the holiday period.

Jobless claims dropped by 28,000 to 235,000 in the week ended Dec. 31, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median projection of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 260,000.

While the figures usually show swings around the year-end holidays, firms have generally avoided firings as the job market tightens and the supply of available workers shrinks. Employers probably continued to add staffers at a solid pace last month, analysts estimated ahead of data due Friday from the Labor Department.

Filings have remained below 300,000 for 96 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1970 and a threshold economists say is indicative of a healthy labor market. An average 263,000 Americans filed for benefits each week in 2016, down from 278,000 in 2015.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 16,000 to 2.11 million in the week ended Dec. 24, the highest since early September. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey for initial claims ranged from 250,000 to 275,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 263,000 from an initially reported 265,000. Last week’s figure was close to the four-decade low of 233,000 from the week ending Nov. 12.

Six states including Virginia and Wisconsin had estimated claims last week, as did Puerto Rico. There was nothing unusual in the overall data, according to the Labor Department.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, decreased to 256,750 from 262,500 in the prior week.

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