The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a second week last week, suggesting a sharp slowdown in job growth in December was likely to be temporary.
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Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 328,000 in the week ended January 11.
The four-week moving average for new claims fell 13,500 to 335,000.
A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated and there was nothing unusual in the state level data.
Job growth slowed sharply in December, with employers adding only 74,000 new jobs to their payrolls. Nonfarm payrolls had increased 241,000 in November and the step-back last month was blamed on cold weather.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid increased 174,000 to 3.03 million in the week ended January 4, the highest since July.
A total of 4.70 million people were receiving benefits under all programs in the week ended December 28. Benefits for about 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans expired that week.