U.S. economy strengthening as weekly jobless claims fall below 200,000; spending strong

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By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a 52-year low last week, suggesting economic activity was accelerating as a year marked by shortages, high inflation and an unrelenting pandemic draws to a close. The plunge in claims reported by the Labor Department on Wednesday was, however, exaggerated by difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal fluctuations this time of the year. Still, the labor market is tightening, with the number of people on jobless rolls the lowest since mid-March 2020 when the economy was in th…

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