Initial jobless claims fell by 16,000 to 278,000 last week.
Economists had estimated that first-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 281,000 in the prior period, down from a revised 294,000 (293,000 previously reported).
The four-week average of claims fell by 2,000 to 283,000.
After the spike by 10,000 last week, some economists noted that big layoffs from temporary holiday jobs make the data tricky around this time of year.
And in a preview to clients, RBC’s Tom Porcelli wrote: “Jobless claims look poised for a substantial drop in the wake of a print last week that was boosted by what looks to be a one-off in California and seasonal adjustment difficulties.”
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