The number of new unemployment claims jumped last week during the typically volatile holiday period, but the measure of layoffs is below year ago levels, pointing to a labor market that slowly improved in 2012.

Initial jobless claims advanced by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 29 the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected 363,000 new benefit applications.

Claims for the week ending Dec. 22 were revised up to 362,000 from an initially reported 350,000.

A Labor Department analyst said a number of government offices were closed during the reporting period due to the Christmas holiday, which can cause fluctuations in the data, and estimates were used for nine states.

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