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Jobless claims chart for four-week running average for week ending Dec. 22, 2012.
For the week ending Dec. 22, the Department of Labor reported Thursday, seasonally adjusted first-time claims fell to 350,000, down 12,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 362,000, originally reported as 361,000. That's a four-and-a-half-year low. But the department had to estimate claims for 19 states that did not report their figures because they were closed Dec. 24. With so many guesstimates, the figure could be well off the mark and subject to substantial revisions next week. However, 14 of the states provided their own estimates, which tend to be more accurate than when the Labor department must do them.

The four-week moving average that smooths volatility in the weekly figure also fell—by 11,250 to 356,750 from the previous week's revised average.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the claims number had soared to 451,000 as thousands of businesses closed because of damage from the storm. Most of those closings were temporary.

For the week ending Dec. 8, the total number of people claiming benefits for all programs, including federally funded emergency extensions, was 5,475,708, up 73,279 from the previous week. For the comparable week in 2011, there were 7,231,771 Americans claiming benefits in all programs.

Come Saturday, if the president and congressional leaders do not come to agreement on fiscal matters, some 2.1 million people will lose their benefits under the federal extensions. If those extensions are not renewed in the new year, an estimated 900,000 more people will lose their benefits by April 1. Some economists say that such a cut-off combined with the end of the payroll tax cut could, by themselves, throw the nation back into recession.

A week from Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly jobs report for December. Consensus of experts surveyed by Bloomberg is that 143,000 new jobs were added to the economy for the month. But the consensus has been wrong, often far wrong, more often than right over the past four years.

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Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 09:13 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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