The U.S. Labor Department said unemployment benefits applications dropped 25,000 last week to 370,000, a level consistent with modest hiring. The decline was also a sign that the spike in applications caused by Superstorm Sandy has faded.
The government will release its closely watched monthly jobs report Friday. Private economists forecast that hiring in November sank from the previous month. They expect the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 7.9 percent.
More companies announced plans to reward investors with dividends this month in case taxes rise next year.
Sirius XM Radio said it will issue a one-time dividend of 5 cents per share at the end of the month and spend up to $2 billion buying back its stock. Safeway shifted a payment scheduled for January to Dec. 31. And Landstar Systems, a transportation company, will pay shareholders 50 cents a share this month instead of paying dividends for the next two years.
Dividends, now taxed at 15 percent, will be treated like ordinary income next year unless Congress and the White House extend current tax breaks as part of a budget deal.