The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, suggesting some strengthening of labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 5,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 335,000 last week.
The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 6,750 to 338,500. A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated and there were no special factors influencing the report.
The claims data covered the survey period for November nonfarm payrolls. Claims dropped 39,000 between the October and November survey periods, suggesting some pick-up in job growth.
While layoffs have slowed significantly to normal levels, there has not been a rapid acceleration in hiring as domestic demand remains lukewarm.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid increased 66,000 to 2.88 million in the week ended Nov. 9.