Unemployment trends improving while long-term benefits lapse

The four-week moving average was 431,000, a decrease of 5,750 from the previous week's revised average of 436,750, the report showed.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 53,000 in the week that ended Nov. 20 to 4.27 million. 

Those who’ve exhausted their 26 weeks of traditional state benefits and are collecting emergency and extended payments increased by about 235,000 to 4.9 million in the week that ended Nov. 13.

Those federal benefits began lapsing on Wednesday after Congress failed to pass an extension, which could leave up to 2 million without the benefits by the end of December, if no action is taken. 

House and Senate Democratic leaders are pushing for a one-year extension estimated to cost $56.4 billion that isn't offset with other revenue or tax increases.

Their argument is that the jobless workers spend most of their unemployment checks, providing a boost to the economy. The Labor Department has said every dollar of benefits provides $2 in economic stimulus. 

Congressional Republicans and some Democrats are insisting on paying for the measure to avoid adding to deficit. 

Those who have run out or are losing their benefits aren't likely to see a restart in the program until mid-December, when Congress is set to leave town for the remainder of the year.