Job seekers wait in line to see employers at a National Career Fairs' job fair in New York.
(USA TODAY) -- Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell sharply last week in a
possible sign that the job market is continuing to gain strength.
claims for jobless benefits dropped by 42,000 to a seasonally adjusted
338,000 for the week ending Dec. 21, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, rose by 4,250 to 348,000.
claims have been elevated in recent weeks because of the late
Thanksgiving holiday, which affected Labor's seasonal adjustments. Many
economists expected a sharp downward correction for last week.
In the week ending Nov. 30, first-time jobless claims were 305,000.
claims are typically a reliable measure of layoffs and often foreshadow
monthly job growth, which includes both payroll cuts and hiring.
have added an average 204,000 jobs a month from August through November
and the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7.0%, the Labor
Department reported earlier this month. Its estimates for December
employment will be released on Jan. 10.
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