The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week from a more than five-month high, suggesting the labor market remains on firmer footing even as economic growth appears to have slowed sharply in the fourth quarter.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000 for the week ended Jan. 2, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The decline partially unwound the prior week's jump, which had lifted claims to their highest level since early July.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 275,000 in the latest week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the data and that no states had been estimated.
Claims tend to be volatile in December, reflecting difficulties adjusting the data around holidays. It was the 44th straight week that claims held below the 300,000 mark, which is associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest run since the early 1970s.