U.S. jobless claims last week eased to a five-week low, while December housing starts surged the most since June 2008, providing further evidence that the U.S. economy got a running start on 2013.

U.S. housing starts in December jumped 12.1 percent to 954,000 from the previous month's downwardly revised level. It was the most housing starts in a month since June 2008. The biggest contributor to the gain was an increase in construction of multifamily buildings.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell 37,000 to 335,000, down from the previous week's revised 372,000, marking the biggest weekly decline since February 2010. The more representative four-week moving average slipped to 359,250, down from the previous week's revised four-week average of 366,000.