U.S. jobless claims fall to seven-week low

Wed Dec 24, 2014 10:24am EST
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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, underscoring the economy's sustained strength.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000 for the week ended Dec. 20, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. It was the lowest reading since Nov. 1 and marked the fourth straight week of declines.

"The labor market is tightening up. Any job losses are just normal frictional unemployment in a healthy growing economy," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.

The report came a day after the government reported the economy expanded at its fastest pace in 11 years in the third quarter and consumer spending increased solidly in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims ticking up to 290,000 last week. The prior week's data was unrevised.

U.S. stocks were trading higher on the report, adding to a five-day winning streak that had pushed the Dow Jones Industrials .DJI and S&P 500 .SPX to closing records.

Yields on U.S. Treasury debt rose to two-week highs. The dollar dipped against a basket of currencies after scoring its highest level in nearly nine years earlier this week.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 8,500 to 290,250 last week.   Continued...

A man speaks with a job recruiter at the Nassau County Mega Job Fair at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York October 7, 2014.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton