WASHINGTON — Initial jobless claims were essentially unchanged for the week ending Jan. 2, increasing by 1,000 to 434,000, as continuing claims fell, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

Continuing claims dropped by 179,000 to 4.802 million for the week ending Dec. 26, which was the lowest level since Jan. 31, 2009.

Economists expected 447,000 initial claims and 4.980 million continuing claims, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Initial claims for the week ending Dec. 26 were revised slightly higher to 433,000 from the 432,000 initially reported. Continuing claims were not revised from last week’s 4.981 million.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, a less volatile figure, dropped to 450,250 from 460,500, in the week ­ending Dec. 26, its 17th consecutive weekly drop. The four-week average for continuing claims dropped for the 15th straight week, ­decreasing to 5.006 million from 5.101 ­million.

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