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Jobless claims dip
New weekly claims for unemployment benefits fall to 343,000, below forecasts of 350,000.
January 15, 2004: 12:10 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - New jobless claims fell in the United States last week, the government said Thursday, with fewer people filing claims than Wall Street expected.

The Labor Department said 343,000 people filed new claims for state unemployment benefits in the week ended Jan. 10, compared with a revised 354,000 the prior week. Economists, on average, expected 350,000 new claims, according to Briefing.com.

The four-week moving average, which is often seen as a more reliable gauge of the job market because it smoothes out weekly fluctuations, tumbled to the lowest level since early February 2001. The average dropped 3,000 to 347,500.

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A Labor Department official said there were no special factors in the data but said there is often increased volatility in the report at this time of the year.

The unexpectedly upbeat claims numbers follow a disappointing December jobs report last Friday.

Payrolls outside the farm sector rose by just 1,000, far fewer than economists had expected, raising questions about the strength of the job market.

Analysts had been expecting a solid 130,000 increase in payrolls, partly based on positive jobless claims data for December.  Top of page


--from staff and wire reports




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