U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Edge Lower

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( - First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits edged slightly lower in the week ended December 22nd, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

The report said initial jobless claims slipped to 216,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level of 217,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 217,000 from the 214,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also fell to 218,000, a decrease of 4,750 from the previous week's revised average of 222,750.

Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also dipped by 4,000 to 1.701 million in the week ended December 15th.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also edged down to 1,675,750, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average of 1,676,750.

Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched monthly report on the employment situation in December.

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