The number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time in a month, but an average measure that economists use showed the claims continuing their downward trend of late. Some 15,000 people signed up for benefits for the week ending Dec. 24, putting the national total at 381,000. But "the four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the fourth straight week to 375,000 - the lowest level since June 2008," the Associated Press reported. "The jump in claims last week may say more about their volatility during this time of year than about the state of the job market," Bloomberg reported, citing economists including Moody's Ryan Sweet. "Their recent decline has stoked speculation the world’s largest economy was on the cusp of showing bigger gains in employment." Sweet pointed out that the holidays tend to make claim numbers "bounce around," which means we could be in for another batch of odd data next week as well. But downward trends in unemployment always come as welcome news, so we'll put up with a little holiday turbulence.
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