Initial jobless claims fell slightly last week, to 294,000 from 298,000 the prior week.
This report missed expectations, however, with Wall Street expecting claims to total 290,000 last week.
Last week’s report also missed expectations.
The four-week moving average of claims fell slightly, to 290,500 from 290,750 last week.
Thursday’s claims number is the last piece of employment data we get before Friday’s big December jobs report, which is expected to show US companies added 240,000 jobs during 2014’s final month.
In a note to clients following the claims number, Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macro said the trend in claims is likely still below 290,000, but holiday distortions make the data hard to trust for another few weeks. Shepherdson also said that due to the current cold snap in the midwest, claims could spike to above 300,000 next week.
Shepherdson added that, “Even if the trend in claims has leveled off, it is low enough to be consistent with very big payroll gains, and if the economy strengthens again in the first half it could easily dip to new lows.”
On Friday, Shepherdson expects December payroll growth to come in at 275,000.