Seasonally adjusted initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended Jan. 11 unexpectedly dropped to 204,000 from an unrevised level of 214,000 in the prior week, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
The consensus estimate of economists polled by Econoday was for jobless claims to rise to 215,000.
The four-week moving average fell to 216,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 224,000.
In the week ended Jan. 4, insured unemployment came in at 1,767,000, down from the upwardly revised reading of 1,804,000 in the prior week. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate, which measures the proportion of the labor force receiving unemployment benefits, was unchanged at 1.2%.