Initial jobless claims fell last week to 280,000, continuing the positive momentum for the labor market as the year ends, the Labor Department said Wednesday.
The closely watched figure was down 9,000 from the previous week's revised level.
Economists had forecast claims would tick up to 290,000.
With the exception of one week in late November, the number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits has been running below 300,000 since early September.
The level of claims indicates that the job market is strong.
The four-week average through Saturday was 290,250, down 8,500 from the previous week.
Wednesday's figure, released a day early because of Christmas, was in line with data showing another month in which the economy added more than 200,000 net new jobs.
That would be a continuation of the best hiring streak since the 1980s. From February through November, the economy has added more than 200,000 jobs a month.
The Labor Department will release its December jobs report on Jan. 9.
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