WASHINGTON — Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment decreased 15,000 to 338,000 in the Dec. 1 week, the Labor Department reported Thursday morning. The previous week’s initial claims level was revised to 353,000 from the originally reported 352,000 level. A Labor Department analyst said “seasonal patterns” which are “nothing new” affected the Dec. 1 week’s initial claims data. He added that the “increase was not as large as expected, which drove the numbers down again.” Seasonals had expected initial unadjusted claims to rise by about 158,000, but they actually jumped by 137,638 in the Dec. 1 week to a level of 461,767. There were 448,898 unadjusted claims in the comparable week a year ago. The four-week moving average for initial claims in the Dec. 1 week was 340,250, up 4,750 from the previous week, and the highest level since Oct. 29, 2005, when it was 342,250. The level of continuing claims dropped 59,000 to 2.599 million in the Nov. 24 week. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.0% in the Nov. 24 week, similar to the previous week but above the comparable week a year ago when the rate was 1.9%.The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is roughly half that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and labor force reentrants included in the monthly report. — Market News International

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