First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly showed a notable decrease in the week ended December 8th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report showed that initial jobless claims fell to 343,000, a decrease of 29,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 372,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to come in unchanged compared to the 370,000 originally reported for the previous week.
With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since dropping to a four-year low of 342,000 in the week ended October 6th.
Peter Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak, said, "It's near the lowest since early '08 but the Labor Department is cautioning that the seasonal adjustments are more difficult this time of the year because of planned layoffs that some industries have."
"Bottom line, I'd like to say how bullish the claims number is with the large drop but the Labor Department seems to want us to average out the upcoming weeks into year end to get a more clear trend with a smoothing of the seasonals," he added.
The Labor Department said its less volatile four-week moving average fell to 381,500 from the previous week's revised average of 408,500.
Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also fell to 3.198 million in the week ended December 1st from the preceding week's revised level of 3.221 million.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell to 3,270,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,313,000.
Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing that the U.S. economy added far more jobs than anticipated in the month of November.
The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment increased by 146,000 jobs in November compared to economist estimates for an increase of about 85,000 jobs.
However, the report also showed a notable downward revision to the pace of job growth in the two previous months.
While the Labor Department also said the unemployment rate fell to a nearly four-year low of 7.7 percent, the drop reflected a decrease in the size of the labor force as some unemployed people gave up looking for work.
by RTT Staff Writer
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