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Dec 8, 11:50 AM EST

Claims for US unemployment aid slide again


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer Americans signed up for unemployment benefits last week, another sign the U.S. job market remains healthy.

THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly claims for jobless aid slid by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 1,000 to 252,500. Overall, 2.01 million Americans are collecting unemployment checks, down 10 percent from a year ago.

THE TAKEAWAY: Claims have come in below 300,000 for 92 straight weeks, 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 employers are hanging onto their workers and that most Americans enjoy job security. "Firms know how hard it is to find qualified staff, so they are reluctant to let people go unless they have no choice," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

KEY DRIVERS: The job market is robust. The Labor Department reported last week that the economy generated a solid 178,000 jobs in November. The unemployment rate dropped to a nine-year low 4.6 percent. But joblessness rate fell largely because so many Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.

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