Weekly US jobless claims drop 42K to 338K

In this Nov. 7, 2013 file photo, Jona Caldwell joins a long line of job seekers outside the Ferguson Community Center in Cordova, Tenn.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The holiday season continues to produce larger than normal swings in unemployment claims.

The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits dropped by 42,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 338,000.

Claims had jumped 75,000 over the previous two weeks. The Labor Department reports that the less-volatile four-week average rose 4,250 to 348,000.

Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs and are now consistent with a solid job market.

Hiring has been healthy the past four months. The economy added an average of 204,000 jobs every month from August through November, an improvement from earlier this year.

The unemployment rate fell in November to 7 percent.

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