Claims for unemployment benefits tumbled from the two-year high hit last week but remained higher than expected.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 for the week ended December 14, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists had forecast a steeper decline to 221,000.
Jobless claims can be volatile week to week so economists look to the four-week moving average of claims for a better measure of the labor market. This moved up by 1,500 to 225,500 last week.
The holiday season often makes claims even more volatile than usual. The spike last week was likely due to Thanksgiving falling later in the year than usual rather than a big jump in layoffs.
The data suggests the labor market remains strong.