Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest in a month economic gains spurred employers to retain workers. Jobless claims declined by 15,000 to 330,000 in the period ended Jan. 4, the Labor Department reported today. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 335,000. The data can be volatile after the holidays as temporary workers are dismissed, a Labor Department spokesman said. Employers are probably becoming more confident that the economy will pick up as consumer spending improves and fiscal constaints loosen a bit after lawmakers recently agreed on ways to limit planned budget cuts for this year. A report tomorrow is projected to show that the employment gain for 2013 was the largest in eight years.
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