The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to 211,000 for the week ended December 10, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor.
That's a drop of 20,000 from the previous week's total, which was upwardly revised to 231,000; and the lowest level since September.
Economists were expecting claims to be 230,000.
Continuing claims, which measure the number of people who are collecting benefits on an ongoing basis, were 1.671 million for the week ended December 3, slightly above the previous week's downwardly revised level of 1.67 million, Labor Department data shows.
Weekly jobless claims are volatile — especially around the holidays — and frequently subject to revision.
Still, the level of claims speaks to the tightness of the labor market, said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead US economist for Oxford Economics.
"Initial claims data can be noisy around the holidays, but the low level of initial claims is a reminder that employers are reluctant to let go of workers they've struggled to find," she said in a statement. "A higher level of continued claims, meanwhile, suggests that workers are collecting benefits for longer because finding a new job may be getting more difficult."
As a whole, the claims data paint a picture of a labor market that is still too tight for the Federal Reserve, she added. The Fed has made a series of hefty interest rate hikes — including a half-point increase on Wednesday — to help quash decades-high inflation.
A tight labor market, however, has been a sticking point. Fed officials have expressed concern about vacancies well outpacing those looking for work, an imbalance that could keep wages and prices elevated.
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