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Claims for unemployment benefits fall to 254,000

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans signed up for unemployment benefits last week, the second straight week that claims have declined.

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.

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