Seasonally adjusted initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits for the week ended Dec. 21 declined to 222,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised 235,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
The consensus estimate of economists polled by Econoday was for the claims to drop to 223,000.
The four-week moving average rose to 228,000, from 225,750 in the prior week.
In the week ended Dec. 14, the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate, which measures the proportion of the labor force receiving unemployment benefits, was steady at 1.2%. Insured unemployment fell to 1,719,000, from the preceding week's upwardly revised 1,725,000.