The latest claims data “signals improvement in the labor market relative to a few weeks ago, but softening in conditions relative to a few months ago,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 4,750 to 218,000 last week.
Worries about the U.S. economy have also been stoked by signs of weakness in the housing market.
U.S. home prices rose just 0.3 percent in October, leaving the year-over-year increase at 5.7 percent, the smallest gain in more than two years, data from the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency showed on Thursday.
In a sign some consumers are worried about the economy, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index declined modestly in December, hitting its lowest level since July.