) -- The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits remained mostly unchanged last week, a continuing hint that job cuts may be slowing as the market awaits a more comprehensive labor market report due Friday.
Applications for initial jobless claims rose by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 434,000 after weeks of declines. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a slightly larger jump in claims to 439,000 after tallying a pre-revised 432,000 in the prior week.
Even more telling, the four-week moving average for initial unemployment benefits, which tends to iron out wild week-to-week fluctuations, was at the lowest point since September 2008. The figure fell by 10,250 to 450,250.
A drop in the number of continuing claims beat estimates, falling to 4.80 million for the week ended Dec. 26 after hitting 4.98 million in the previous week.
A deluge of labor-related data released this week has served as a prelude to the Labor Department's nonfarm payroll report. If consensus expectations hold true, approximately 35,000 jobs were shed from rolls in December, according to figures provided by Briefing.com. Still, several individual forecasts anticipate some job growth for the first time in months. The nation's unemployment rate will probably hold steady at 10%.
Despite the recent upbeat trend in the labor market, challenges remain.
will be shedding jobs in Tennessee and Indiana, according to reports.
--Written by Sung Moss in New York