Claims for unemployment benefits fall to 254,000

Markets Associated Press

FILE - In this Thursday, May 30, 2013, file photo, a job seeker stops at a table offering resume critiques during a job fair held in Atlanta. The Labor Department reported Thursday, Dec. 15 2016, that fewer Americans signed up for unemployment ... benefits from the week before, the second straight week that claims have declined. (AP Photo/John Amis, File) (The Associated Press)

Fewer Americans signed up for unemployment benefits last week, the second straight week that claims have declined.

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THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly claims for jobless benefits dropped by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 254,000, the lowest level in three weeks. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 5,250 to 257,750. Overall, 2.02 million Americans are collecting unemployment checks, down 10.1 percent from a year ago.

THE TAKEAWAY: Claims have come in below 300,000 for 93 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970 when the population and labor force were much smaller. The applications are a proxy for layoffs and the low numbers suggest that the labor market remains healthy. Unemployment in November fell to a nine-year low of 4.6 percent.

The continued low number for benefit applications suggest that employers are confident enough in the economy to hang onto their workers.

KEY DRIVERS: The job market is robust. The economy generated a solid 178,000 jobs in November. Overall growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, expanded at a solid 3.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter after turning in a lackluster performance in the first half of the year.