WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims fell sharply last week to 335,000, the lowest level in five years in a hopeful sign for the labor market as the new year begins.
The number of people filing the first time for unemployment benefits dropped by 37,000 in the week ending Saturday from the previous week's revised figure of 372,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists say initial claims below 350,000 a week indicate strong job growth. But the numbers can vary widely from week to week.
Analysts had expected a more modest decrease last week, to 369,000, and the sharp drop could reflect the difficulty in making seasonal adjustments to the figures after the holidays.