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Initial claims for unemployment dropped to 814,000 last week from 873,000 the prior week, the Labor Department reported today, Thursday, December 31.

The short week due to Christmas makes it hard to judge the trend in new applications.

Another 308,000 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for part-time workers, the self-employed and others ordinarily ineligible for jobless benefits.

The latest figures suggest that the December jobs report, due for release after the New Year’s holiday, will show either a drop in job gains from November or be essentially unchanged. The economy may only have gained about 20,000 jobs in December, Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, told the New York Times. That would amount to a “huge deceleration from last month ” when the economy added payrolls 245,000 jobs.

Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco told the Times that he expects an increase in the unemployment rate to 6.9% in December from 6.7% in November. .