U.S. weekly jobless claims drop 34,000 to 388,000: WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The number of U.S. workers filing new applications for jobless benefits fell 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 in the week ended Dec. 25, hitting the lowest level since July of 2008, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims of 413,000. The four-week average of new claims, which is smoother than the weekly data, fell 12,500 to 414,000, also reaching the lowest level since July of 2008. The level of claims helps observers to analyze the health of the labor market, and economists say claims would have to remain below 400,000 before there's a substantial gain in hiring. Analysts also note that claims are difficult to seasonally adjust near the holidays..