In the week ending Dec. 1, applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000 – the lowest reading in one month. Initial jobless claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 395,000 from an original reading of 393,000.
Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected claims to fall to 380,000.
Claims spiked after Superstorm Sandy hit the mid-Atlantic in late October. The four-week moving average, which normally provides a better indication of the underlying trend in labor markets than the weekly number of jobless claims, has also been distorted by Sandy. The average of new claims over the past month rose by 2,250 to 408,000.
Claims dropped by almost 24,000 in New Jersey two weeks ago and by 6,682 in New York, the two states most affected by the storm, the report showed. The state data is reported with a one-week lag.
The number of people filing for benefits after an initial week of aid increased fell by 100,000 to 3.21 million in the week ending Nov. 24. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Job gains are of great importance, because they lead to income growth, and that supports consumer spending, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
The Labor Department will release the November jobs data on Friday at 8:30 a.m. EST. Economists expect nonfarm payrolls to show a gain of just 93,000 in November -- a steep drop from the 171,000 jobs created a month earlier. That would be the fewest number of jobs created in five months and well off the average 168,000 monthly hiring posted over the August-October span.