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(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a three-week low as an improving economy limited dismissals.   Jobless claims decreased by 3,000 to 294,000 in the week ended Dec. 6, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for first-time applications to hold at the prior week’s 297,000. Claims have been below 300,000 for 12 of the past 13 weeks.   Companies are retaining staff and hiring at the strongest pace since 1999 as they try to meet stronger demand for their goods and services. Retail sales rose in November by the most in eight months, indicating continued labor market progress is bolstering confidence and spending prospects during the holiday-shopping season, another report showed.   “The trend in claims is still very, very low,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Job destruction really hasn’t been the issue — the key has always been new hiring — and the new hiring appears to have picked up this year.”   Estimates from 50 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 280,000 to 325,000.   Sales at retailers climbed 0.7 percent last month, the biggest gain since March, according to Commerce Department data today. The increase was broad-based, with 11 of 13 categories advancing in November.   Stock futures advanced after the reports, with the contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing this month climbing 0.3 percent to 2,032.9 at 8:45 a.m. in New York.   Four-week average The four-week average of jobless claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, was little changed at 299,250 after 299,000 the week before.   The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits jumped by 142,000 to 2.51 million in the week ended Nov. 29, the highest since mid-August.   In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits climbed to 1.9 percent from 1.8 percent the prior week, the report showed.   Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and typically decrease before job growth can accelerate. Many dismissals now reflect company-specific causes, such as one-time cost-cutting or business restructuring.   Delia’s Inc. Delia’s Inc., a clothing chain that caters to teenage girls, filed for Chapel 11 bankruptcy protection and will cut 51 jobs at its corporate headquarters after failing to find a buyer. The New York-based company has been struggling to contend with stagnate shopping-mall traffic and bargain-hunting consumers turning their attention to Internet retailers. Delia’s was founded in 1993 and owns and operates 92 stores in 29 states.   Federal Reserve policy makers are considering labor market progress as they weigh when to raise interest rates ahead of a meeting next week. While recent job growth has accelerated in recent months, labor market slack still exists and inflation has persisted below the central bank’s 2 percent target.   With assistance from Chris Middleton in Washington and Matt Robinson in New York.

Copyright 2018 Bloomberg. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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