Ahead of the Bell: US unemployment benefits

Applications for US unemployment benefits likely ticked up last week

Associated Press
Applications for US jobless aid fall to 7-week low
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In this Oct. 23, 2014 photo, assistant Professor Dan Reed teaches automotive service technology students at the Community College of Philadelphia, in Philadelphia. The Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. The report will be released Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

MINOR INCREASE: Economists forecast that weekly applications rose 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 290,000, according to a survey by data provider FactSet.

The number of people seeking jobless benefits has been at historically low levels — below 300,000 — for 13 of the past 14 weeks. That indicates that fewer people are losing their jobs and that employers expect the economy to continue growing without much disruption. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, has fallen 12.6 percent to 298,750 in the past 12 months.

MORE HIRING: Job gains have improved as applications for benefits have steadily dwindled.

Employers added 321,000 jobs in November, the most in nearly three years. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent, down from 7 percent year-over-year.

In the first 11 months of this year, employers have added 2.65 million jobs. That already makes 2014 the best year for hiring since 1999.

But wage growth has yet to pick up the pace, rising just 2.1 percent in the past 12 months. That's only slightly better than inflation.

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