THE number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell and planned layoffs hit a 13-year low in December, adding to suggestions the economy is gaining steam.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000 in the week ending January 4.
Economists had expected them to fall to just 335,000.
Claims are typically volatile around this time of the year because of the difficulties adjusting the data for unusual and shifting layoff patterns around the holidays. Still, they have been largely consistent with other labour market indicators that have painted an upbeat picture of the jobs market and the overall economy.
"The labour market seems to have picked up some steam towards the end of the year," said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.
Separately, consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said planned layoffs at US firms plunged by 32pc in December to the lowest level since June 2000.
The reports helped to lift US stocks, although the dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies and prices for US government bonds rose only slightly.
From employment to consumer spending and industrial production, the economy appears poised for sustained strong growth in 2014 after false starts in prior years.
In an interview with 'Time' magazine released on Thursday, incoming Fed Chair Janet Yellen said she was "hopeful" that economic growth would accelerate in 2014 to reach 3pc or more. Economists think GDP growth may not have even reached 2pc last year.