With the more closely watched monthly jobs report looming, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by more than expected in the week ended January 4th. The report said initial jobless claims dropped to 214,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week's revised level of 223,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 220,000 from the 222,000 originally reported for the previous week. The Labor Department said the four-week moving average also slid to 224,000, a decrease of 9,500 from the previous week's revised average of 233,500. The less volatile four-week moving average pulled back after hitting its highest level since January of 2018 in the previous week. Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, rose by 75,000 to 1.803 million in the week ended December 28th. The four-week moving average of continuing claims also climbed to 1,744,750, an increase of 33,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 1,711,750. On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release a separate report on the employment situation in the month of December. Economists expect employment to increase by 164,000 jobs in December after spiking by 266,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.5 percent.
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