New claims for US unemployment insurance fell last week, according to government data released on Thursday that pointed to the slowly recovering jobs market.
First-time jobless claims fell to 326,000 in the week ending January 11, from the prior week’s downwardly revised figure of 328,000, the Labor Department said.
Last week’s claims were well below the 333,000 average estimate.
Claims have been trending lower. The four-week moving claims average, which helps to smooth week-over-week volatility, fell by 13,500 to 335,000.
A year ago, claims stood at 373,000.
“Looking through the ups and downs in new filings, the job market continues to gradually heal,” said Ryan Sweet at Moody’s Analytics.
Post-holiday trends can be volatile as employers shed temporary staff, analysts say.
The Labor Department’s December jobs data last Friday showed an unexpected sharp slowdown in job creation, with a mere 74,000 jobs added, less than half the number expected.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in December from 7.0 percent in November, mainly due to people dropping out of the labor force.