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The number of Americans unemployed and seeking assistance dropped to a five-year low, the Labor Department announced Thursday (Dec. 27).

The four-week average was at 356,750, as weekly applications fell to 12,000 for the week ending on Dec. 22. However, the figures were adjusted due to the holiday season, as many state unemployment offices were closed Monday and Tuesday for Christmas. 

Just two months ago, weekly unemployment claims spiked, following Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast leaving many without jobs.

Economic forecasters are optimistic about the figures which show a marginal improvement in the job force, but the actual unemployment rate is still high, despite dropping to 7.7 last percent month. Next week’s job report is expected to show that employers added approximately 150,000 jobs for the entire month of December.

The lack of unemployment benefit claims also show that employers have not started early reactions to the looming fiscal cliff by firing members of their workforce.

President Obama cut his Christmas vacation short this week to continue negotiations in hopes of reaching a fiscal agreement before the end of the year. No matter the president’s efforts, not everyone is convinced that an agreement will made. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid believes that the government is headed over the fiscal cliff stating that “nothing is happening,opening the door for tax hikes and spending cuts, which will be a blow to the country’s economy and may hinder job creation.

Photo: Getty