WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims dropped slightly last week, ending the year on a downward trend as holiday season volatility appeared to ease.

The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits dropped to 339,000 in the week ended Saturday, from an upwardly revised 341,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Last week's figure, the lowest in a month, was in line with economists' forecasts and indicated moderate job growth.

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The closely watched jobless claims data has fluctuated widely the last few weeks, which is typical during the period from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day as seasonal adjustments are more difficult.

The four-week average remained somewhat elevated last week at 357,250, up 8,500 from the previous week.

Claims plunged to 305,000, near a six-year low, in the week ended Nov. 30, which included the Thanksgiving holiday. Then the figure jumped the next two weeks, topping out at 380,000 in the week ended Dec. 14, the highest level since March.

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