WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of workers applying for unemployment aid fell unexpectedly by 15,000 last week, government data on Thursday showed.
Initial jobless claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 322,000 in the week ended Jan 5, from a slightly revised 337,000 the prior week.
Wall Street economists were expecting a slight increase in new claims to 340,000 from the originally reported 336,000 in the week ended December 29.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors behind the surprise decrease and noted that this time of year can be difficult to account for seasonal adjustments. “This is a real tough time of the year for us,” he said.
Traditionally, there is a good bit of volatility during the period between Thanksgiving and the observance of civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s birthday in mid-January.
The number of people who remain on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid dropped by 52,000 to 2.70 million in the week ended December 29, the latest period these figures were available. But that number still remained close to levels reached during 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Reporting by Nancy Waitz, editing by Joanne Morrison
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