APPLICATIONS RISE: Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said. The holidays may have distorted the data. Many state unemployment offices were closed this week for New Year's and did not submit complete data. The department used estimates for 9 states.
BROADER TREND FAVORABLE: The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was little changed at 360,000, near the lowest level in more than four years.
GOOD SIGN: The data suggest that employers haven't boosted layoffs and may still be hiring despite battles between the White House and Congress over the fiscal cliff. That's a good sign since more budget fights are likely this year.