The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment benefits tumbled last week.
Initial jobless claims dropped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 222,000 for the week ended December 28, according to data released by the Labor Department Thursday.
This suggests that the labor market remained strong throughout last year despite a downtick in economic growth and widespread fears of a recession throughout much of the summer.
Economists had expected 225,000 new claims.
Claims can be volatile around the holiday season when jobs come online for seasonal shopping and then workers are let go. In addition, many economists suspect the seasonal adjustments may exaggerate the volatility.
The four-week moving average of initial claims rose by 4,750 to 233,250.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell back to 3.5 percent, the lowest in nearly half a century. The Labor Department will release its estimate of December unemployment, as well as figures on job creation, on Friday, January 10, a week later than usual due to the holidays.