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Jobless Claims Improve More Than Expected
WASHINGTON (12/27/13)--Initial jobless claims fell by 42,000 to 338,000 for the week ending Dec. 21, according to U.S. Labor Department data released Thursday.

The drop--the biggest one-week drop since Nov. 17, 2012--was 7,000 greater than a Bloomberg forecast had predicted ( Dec. 26). However, analysts note that data this time of year is unreliable.

Moody's analysts said there won't be an accurate measure of the labor market until late January ( Dec. 26). Poor data are often collected because unemployment offices are open fewer hours during the holiday season, causing delays in claims processing (MarketWatch Dec. 26).

The four-week moving joblessness average was up to 348,000 from 343,750--the highest it's been since early November, pushed upwardly due to a 75,000 increase in first-time filings recorded over the two weeks leading up to the Dec. 21 data. First-time claims for the week ending Dec. 14 were revised up to 380,000, from 379,000.

Continuing claims also rose 46,000 to 2.923 million for the week ending Dec. 14, while the number of people claiming federal emergency benefits fell 40,699 to 1.33 million.

Moody's noted that emergency benefit recipients will lose their unemployment insurance on Jan. 1 and won't have it restored unless the U.S. Congress acts after the winter recess.

Moody's also said that it did not expect November's 0.3% decline in unemployment to be reversed this month. Bloomberg analysts echoed this sentiment, remarking that consumer spending has been strong recently.

The Federal Reserve, having just announced a scaling back of its quantitative easing program, believes the job market is gradually improving. Fed officials improved their outlook of the labor market, predicting that unemployment rate will drop to as low as 6.3% in 2014--down from a September forecast ranging from 6.4% to 6.8%.

Thursday's data also showed that only 183 people claimed extended benefits during the week that ended Dec. 7--45,000 had received them during the same time in 2012.

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