Initial jobless claims drop again, hit new five-year low

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Initial jobless claims fell again last week, to 330,000, a fresh five-year low, as the labor market continued a strong start to 2013.

There were 5,000 fewer people who filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday than in the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The last time there were fewer initial jobless claims was exactly five years ago, when 318,000 filed for benefits.

The drop last week was below analysts’ estimates of 355,000 and could reflect the complexities of seasonal adjustments after the holidays and at the start of a new quarter.

The four-week average, a less volatile gauge, also dropped last week, to 351,750, down from the previous week’s 360,000.

Still, the recent downturn bodes well for job growth in January, with the government scheduled to announce those figures next week. The economy added 155,000 net new jobs in December, while the unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent.

Initial jobless claims averaged 359,000 in December. So far this month, they are averaging 347,000.

Economists say that claims below 350,000 a week are consistent with strong job growth.