The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to a strengthening labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000 for the week ended Dec. 6, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's data was unrevised.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 295,000 last week.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, ticked up by 250 to 299,250, holding below the 300,000 mark for the 13th straight month.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data. There is little doubt that the labor market is gathering steam.
Job gains in November were the largest in nearly three years and marked the 10th straight month of increases above 200,000, the longest such stretch since 1994.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased by 142,000 to 2.51 million in the week ended Nov. 29.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)