Initial jobless claims fell 3.3% to 350,000 for the week ended Dec. 22, according to a Department of Labor report released today. These newest numbers continue the month-long downward trend preceding last week's 4.9% rise, welcome evidence of an apparently recovering labor market.

Source: Department of Labor

The four-week moving average dropped nearly 3.1% to 356,750, a steadier sign of healthier employment than week-by-week analysis. Both this week's numbers and the four-week moving average fell solidly below 400,000, a cut-off point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.

On a state-by-state basis, Florida and Kentucky recorded the largest increases in initial claims for the week ended Dec. 15 (most recent available data). Florida's number rose 5,080, while Kentucky clocked a 1,009 increase. After California's 5,950 jump for the previous week, the state's initial claims fell 6,867, due mostly to fewer layoffs in agriculture, forestry, and fishing businesses. Initial claims also fell more than 1,000 in New Jersey (-5,101), Pennsylvania (-3,412), and seven other states across the country.  

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate continues to hover at 2.5% for the week ended Dec. 15 (most recent data available), relatively unchanged since October.