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U.S. jobless claims may confirm improving labor market

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New claims for US unemployment benefits rose for the first time in four weeks, but the trend still pointed to a steady decline in job layoffs across the country, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Initial jobless claims climbed to 381,000 in the week ending December 24, an increase of 15,000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised 366,000 claims.

The rise was modestly worse than expected, with most analysts estimating an increase to 368,000 after claims hit their lowest level since April 2008 the previous week.

The moving average has dropped 12 percent in the past six months, and more than 5.0 percent in a month.

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