Weekly jobless claims fell to 803,000 from a revised level of 892,000 an improvement after two weeks of increases, the Department of Labor reported Wednesday. Economists had predicted claims coming in at 885,000.
The numbers are still above the recent lows of 711,000 seen in early November, reflecting the muted recovery and the impact of states increasing business and social restrictions as coronavirus cases continue to break records.
Initial claims represent the number of workers seeking jobless claims for the first time, and are used by economists as an approximation of new layoff activity.
The Department of Labor usually issues the jobless claims report on Thursdays, but did so a day early in light of the Christmas break.
Jobless claims spiked to nearly 7 million at the end of March, and have since improved. Yet they still are about four times above pre-pandemic levels.
The new plateau in initial claims also remains above the highest seen in the Great Recession under the Obama Administration, which peaked 661,000 in March, 2009.