US weekly jobless claims rise

Initial claims for US unemployment insurance rose last week but remained at a level signaling a firming labor market, official data released Wednesday showed.

New jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, totaled 298,000 in the week ending December 27, an increase of 17,000 from the previous week's revised level, the Labor Department said.

Economists had expected a smaller increase in claims to 290,000, after five consecutive weeks of declines.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out week-over-week volatility, edged up by 250 claims to 290,750. With claims holding below 300,000 for some time, layoffs appeared to be stabilizing as the economy churns out solid job growth. A year ago the average stood at 352,250.

The world's largest economy pumped out its best monthly job growth in nearly three years in November, adding a solid 321,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate held steady at a six-year low of 5.8 percent.

The Labor Department reports December numbers next week that are expected to show job growth slowed to 250,000 and the jobless rate fell to 5.7 percent.

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