US jobless claims fall at the start of December

Washington (AFP) –


New claims for unemployment insurance fell at the start of December following two consecutive weeks of increases, the US Labor Department reported Thursday.

The figures can be volatile, but the decline pointed to continued health in the labor market following the surprise drop in the November unemployment rate to 4.6 percent, its lowest level in nine years.

In the week ending December 3, new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 to 258,000, slightly higher than an analyst consensus forecast which called for 255,000 claims. The prior week's level was unrevised.

Weekly unemployment claims can be used to gauge the prevalence of layoffs, and has remained below 300,000 for 92 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970. The four-week moving average rose slightly, however, adding 1,000 to 252,500.

Though they had been divided over the summer about whether the US economy was nearing full employment, Federal Reserve is widely expected next week to adopt the first interest rate increase in a year to ward off possible inflation and in light of robust job creation since the summer.