Applications for U.S. employment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to the lowest level in more than two months, the Labor Department reported this morning. However, part of the reason may be that it is increasingly difficult to adjust the data for seasonal variations during holiday periods. Jobless claims decreased 23,000 to 298,000 in the week ended Nov. 30, rather than a projected increase to 320,000 from an initially reported 316,000 the prior week, the Labor Department announced. That forecast came from the median prediction of 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The latest jobless reading was the lowest since the first week in September when the Labor Day holiday affected the number of jobless claims. Since the data are difficult to adjust for seasonal variations around holidays, it is not unusual to see increased volatility at this time of year, a Labor Department spokesman said. Another Labor Department report tomorrow may show employers continued hiring in November, reinforcing that the job market is improving. Watch for our report on the hiring numbers tomorrow. If economic indicators keep rising, it heightens the prospect for the Federal Reserve to taper its current easy-money policies.
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