The four-week moving average of new claims - more reliable because it irons out weekly fluctuations - inched down to 343,750 from 344,500.
The number of people remaining on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of claims rose for the fourth straight week, climbing to 2.76 million in the week ended Dec. 22, the latest week these figures were available.
Separately, The ADP emloyment report showed the U.S. private sector likely added 40,000 jobs in December. This suggests nonfarm payrolls grew by about 65,000, close to the 58,000 now expected.
Meanwhile, a survey from outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas showed planned layoffs fell 39.3 percent in December from the previous month and were down 18.7 percent from December 2006, to wrap 2007 with a total planned job cuts figure 8.5 percent lower than in 2006.
However, Monster, a global online recruiting firm, said its Employment Index fell to 169 points in December, from 183 in November. The index was 167 a year ago and 168 in January 2007.
Layoffs Hit Hard in Financial Sector
According to the Challenger report, U.S. companies' December planned job cuts in U.S. companies totaled 44,416, down from 73,140 in November, and the year total was 768,264, down from 839,822 in 2006.