Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits dipped last week to the lowest level in a month as typical volatility during the year-end holidays waned. Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 339,000 in the period ended Dec. 28, Labor Department data showed today. The median forecast of 26 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 344,000 claims. The findings indicate that firings probably will be limited this year, with gains in business and consumer spending likely lifting the world’s largest economy. Further upticks in hiring may depend on progress among Washington lawmakers in budget negotiations this month, which would boost confidence and potential job gains. The improvement also could embolden additional Fed tapering of its bond buying action.
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