Two thousand fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, moving the rate to a seasonally-adjusted 339,000, suggesting that hiring will remain steady and layoffs low. While employers have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month from August through November, driving the unemployment rate to a five-year low of seven percent, nearly 4.5 million people received some form of unemployment benefits in the week ending Dec. 14, the latest data available. That’s 180,000 more than the previous week, according to sacbee.com. Of those recipients, some 1.3 million stand to lose their benefits this month, reports the National Employment Law Project, because Congress refused to extend long-term unemployment benefits. That program ended last week, MHProNews has learned. Further, while existing home sales have fallen the last three months, and consumers spent more than they saved last month, indicating a drop in incomes, the economy grew 4.1 percent in the third quarter, 2013, the highest rate in nearly two years, economists think the fourth quarter will come in with a 2.5 percent growth rate.
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