Latest data on the number of Americans who filed new applications for federal unemployment benefits rose for a second straight week and once again moved above the key 400,000 mark -- the level below which economists say signals a strengthening job market. The labor market is still weak, even during the holiday season.

The Labor Department says new claims registered at 402,000 in the week ended Nov. 26, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 396,000. Economists polled by Reuters called for 390,000 initial claims, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Today's data showed the four-week moving average, considered a less volatile measure of the labor market trends, came in at 395,750, an increase of 500 from the previous week's revised average of 395,250.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits after an initial week of aid rose by 35,000 in the week ended Nov. 19 to 3.74 million. The four-week moving average was 3.68 million, an increase of 8,250 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,675,000.

The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

According to Challenger's Wednesday report, November layoffs remained flat from October and declined 13 percent compared with the same month a year ago. Yet, with still one month remaining in 2011, the 11-month total of 564,297 job cuts has already officially surpassed the 497,969 people employers let go in the past year.

A recent survey conducted by careers website Dice Holdings Inc. suggested that although the U.S. economy is restrained by elevated uncertainty, recruiters and hiring managers still foresee a solid hiring picture for the first six months of the year ahead. Forty-seven percent of hiring managers and recruiters plan to step up hiring in the first half of 2012, as compared to the second half of this year.