The DoL said claims dipped by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000 in the week ending January 11, down from a revised 392,000 the week before. The 360,000 was the lowest level since the week ending November 30, 2002 and much lower than expected.
Analysts in Reuters regular survey had predicted a slight claims increase for the January 11 week, to around 392,000. Claims in the week ending January 4 had initially been reported falling by 19,000 to 389,000 (See Jobless Claims Fall Ahead of Forecasts).
The four-week moving claims average, considered by many to be more reliable because it smoothes out short-term fluctuations, was down to 387,500 from 407,000 the week before, the DoL data showed.
Analysts warned that seasonal adjustments might have pulled the latest jobless numbers down.
If the jobless claims stay below the 400,000 mark, it may indicate an improvement in the still largely moribund economy in which the unemployment rate held steady in December at 6% according to previously released DoL data.