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US Unemployment Claims Rise


FILE - Job seekers fill out employment applications at a job fair in Miami Lakes, Florida, Oct. 22, 2014.

Several economic studies published Wednesday paint a mixed picture of the U.S. economy.

The Labor Department says the number of people signing up for unemployment compensation rose in the United States last week. Initial unemployment claims rose 17,000 to a nationwide total of 298,000. While the number of layoffs rose from the prior week, the relatively low total number is still consistent with an improving job market.

A separate report from the National Association of Relators, a business group, says the number of pending home sales improved slightly in November. Experts track pending home sales to get a look at the housing market's health and direction. NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun says "consistent economic growth and steady hiring" are giving more families the confidence they need to purchase a home.

Meantime, the Institute for Supply Management, a business group, says business activity in the important Chicago area slowed "noticeably," but remains consistent with continued econmic growth. ISM experts track production, orders, backlogs and other data to gauge the pace of economic activity.