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Jobless claims down slightly to 420,000

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Initial jobless claims slid to 420,000 last week, down slightly from the previous week and roughly in line with most analysts' estimates. The Labor Department said the seasonally adjusted figure of actual initial claims for the week ended Dec. 11 fell by 3,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 423,000. Despite the decline, weekly claims remain stubbornly higher than 400,000. Most economists believe jobless claims lower than that threshold indicate the economy is expanding and jobs growth is strengthening. Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected jobless claims to come in at 421,000 with a range of estimates from 414,000 to 435,000. A Briefing.com survey projected new claims of 415,000 last week. The four-week moving average decreased by 5,250 to 422,750 claims from a revised average of 428,000. The moving average, which is considered a less volatile indicator than weekly claims, is now at the lowest point in more than two years. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained 3.3% for the week ended Dec. 4 unchanged from the week prior. The total number of people receiving some sort of federal unemployment benefits rose to nearly 9.2 million for the week ended Nov. 27, according to the Labor Department. Earlier this month, the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said unemployment rose to 9.8% from 9.6% in November, despite a 39,000 gain in nonfarm payroll jobs. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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