U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Show Slight Decline

A day ahead of the release of the closely watched monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended January 2nd.

The report said initial jobless claims edged down to 787,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level of 790,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 800,000 from the 787,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also fell to 818,750, a decrease of 18,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 837,500.

Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also declined by 126,000 to 5.072 million in the week ended December 26th.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims dropped to 5,274,750, a decrease of 177,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 5,452,000.

“Continuing claims for regular state benefits continued to decline in the week ended December 26, but much of the downward trend reflects individuals exhausting their regular benefits,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

“Claims for state extended benefits – a last stop for many individuals who have exhausted all other benefits – rose sharply,” she added. “That increase is particularly noteworthy because fewer than half of states currently provide these benefits.”

On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release a separate report on the employment situation in the month of December.

Economists expect employment to rise by 71,000 jobs in December after climbing by 245,000 jobs in November. The unemployment rate is expected to inch up to 6.8 percent from 6.7 percent.

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