Initial jobless claims fell nearly 4% last week to 421,000 after coming in at the lowest level in two years a few weeks ago. The Labor Department said the seasonally adjusted figure of actual initial claims for the week ended Dec. 4 decreased by 17,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised figure of 438,000. Despite the drop, 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 decline to 425,000 with a range of estimates from 370,000 to 435,000. A survey projected new claims of 420,000 last week, and economists polled by MarketWatch expected 425,000 new claims. The four-week moving average declined by 4,000 to 427,500 claims and is now at the lowest point in more than two years. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate fell to 3.2% for the week ended Nov. 27, down from 3,4% the previous week. The total number of people receiving some sort of federal unemployment benefits was nearly 8.3 million for the week ended Nov. 13, according to the Labor Department. Last week, 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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