The four-week moving average that smooths volatility in the weekly figure also fell—by 11,250 to 356,750 from the previous week's revised average.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the claims number had soared to 451,000 as thousands of businesses closed because of damage from the storm. Most of those closings were temporary.
For the week ending Dec. 8, the total number of people claiming benefits for all programs, including federally funded emergency extensions, was 5,475,708, up 73,279 from the previous week. For the comparable week in 2011, there were 7,231,771 Americans claiming benefits in all programs.
Come Saturday, if the president and congressional leaders do not come to agreement on fiscal matters, some 2.1 million people will lose their benefits under the federal extensions. If those extensions are not renewed in the new year, an estimated 900,000 more people will lose their benefits by April 1. Some economists say that such a cut-off combined with the end of the payroll tax cut could, by themselves, throw the nation back into recession.
A week from Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly jobs report for December. Consensus of experts surveyed by Bloomberg is that 143,000 new jobs were added to the economy for the month. But the consensus has been wrong, often far wrong, more often than right over the past four years.