Unemployment claims fall again

By Catherine Clifford, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- In another hopeful sign for the job market, the number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell for the third week in a row.

The number of initial claims dropped to 420,000 in the week ending Dec. 18, down from 423,000 claims the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting a tick up to 424,000 new claims.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims -- a number that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility -- was 426,000, an increase of 2,500 from the previous week's average of 423,500.

The moving average was higher because the mathematic formula used to calculate it covers a period of several weeks, explained Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics, but the overall trend is a positive one.

"The good news is that claims are clearly hovering at a lower level than they have been," said Brusca. "This is a move into a better territory -- it is a good move."

That average has been stuck between 400,000 and 500,000 for over a year. During the last few weeks, the average has been moving toward the lower end of that range, but most economists say it still needs to fall below 400,000 to make a dent in the unemployment rate.

"Once we break 400, people are going to start being a little bit more optimistic that the economy is in better shape, and we are getting close enough that we could do that pretty soon if we continue to make this progress," said Brusca.

The government said 4,064,000 people filed unemployment claims for their second week or more, during the week ended Dec. 11, the most recent data available. That's down by 103,000 from the week before.

Economists were expecting 4,075,000 people to file ongoing claims.

The 4-week moving average for continuing claims fell by 38,250 to 4,155,500.

Continuing claims reflect people who file each week after their initial claim until the end of their standard benefits, which usually last 26 weeks. The figures do not include those who have moved to state or federal extensions, or people who have exhausted their benefits but are still out of a job. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,087.62 -10.83 -0.06%
Nasdaq 4,590.25 9.98 0.22%
S&P 500 2,002.20 -1.17 -0.06%
Treasuries 2.41 0.06 2.65%
Data as of 11:38am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 103.46 0.96 0.94%
Bank of America Corp... 16.16 0.07 0.44%
Staples Inc 12.50 0.83 7.06%
Facebook Inc 75.64 0.82 1.09%
General Electric Co 25.94 -0.04 -0.13%
Data as of 11:22am ET

Sections

Online flower peddler is buying fruit gift basket retailers for $142.5 million. More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Microsoft is expected to begin showing off Windows 9's features later this month. Here are the expected changes you should be thrilled about. More

The Coolest Cooler is the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history, raising $13.3 million from over 62,000 backers. More

A scam where fraudsters impersonate IRS agents has now stolen $5 million from taxpayers, and this woman - who lost her entire life savings -- is just one of its victims. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.