There were 350,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, down 12,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration reports. That's the lowest level since early March 2008.
The agency adds that "the 4-week moving average," which tends to smooth out some of the volatility that comes with the weekly figures, "was 356,750, a decrease of 11,250 from the previous week's revised average of 368,000."
All those figures are "seasonally adjusted," meaning that they're tweaked to supposedly account for such things as the holidays. But, as Bloomberg News reports, "claims in 19 states and territories were estimated because government office closures on Dec. 24 prevented a complete count, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released."
So watch for some revisions in coming weeks.
Later this morning, we should get fresh figures on new home sales and consumer confidence.