There was a surprising bump last week in initial unemployment claims, interrupting an otherwise encouraging trend, but as expected, the new data from the Labor Department points in the right direction.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 17,000 last week to 297,000, returning initial claims to levels consistent with a steadily improving labor market after a surprising spike in the prior week. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims to fall to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 in the seven days ended Nov. 29, a week that included Thanksgiving. […]The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, rose by 4,750 to 299,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, which remains near a post-recession low, smoothens out seasonal volatility in the weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends.