Initial unemployment claims tick up

Both the figure for last week and the four-week average are also below 400,000, generally considered to be the threshold for a healthy job market.

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Still, the increase in claims does end a run of four decreases in five weeks. Bloomberg’s median estimate for claims was 390,000 with projections ranging from 375,000 to 400,000.

Some analysts have also said that claims need to drop below 375,000 to put a real dent in the unemployment rate, which has hovered around or above 9 percent for more than two years.

The sluggish job market, and the economy in general, are poised to be central topics in next year’s presidential election. And with a little more than a month to go in 2011, lawmakers are set to debate an extension of unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut that economists say would help the economy.

According to the Labor Department, the total number of people using benefits ticked up to 3.69 million for the week ending Nov. 12, a figure that does not count those using emergency benefits.