Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.
So far this year employers have hired an average of about 151,000 workers each month, according to Labor Department data. That rate compares with average monthly payroll additions near 153,000 in 2011.
Labor market progress is more pronounced when considering the jobless rate, which fell 0.8 percentage point to 7.7 percent from the end of 2011 through November.
Fed policy makers, nonetheless, contend that bigger drops in unemployment are contingent on faster economic growth. They announced on Dec. 12 that for the first time they will link the bank’s main interest rate to unemployment and inflation and would expand an asset purchasing program in January to spur the economy.
Interest rates will stay low “at least as long” as the jobless rate remains above 6.5 percent and if inflation “between one and two years ahead” is projected to be no more than 2.5 percent, the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement.
Avista Corp is among companies eliminating staff. The energy holding company based in Seattle said last week it will let go 56 employees in a bid to cut costs, representing about half of the workers that volunteered to take a severance package, according to the Spokesman-Review, a newspaper in Spokane, Washington.