After rising above 300,000 briefly in late November, initial jobless claims have been coming back down near their recovery lows. Initial claims fell for the 3rd straight week, down 6,000 to 289,000 in the December 13 week.

The 4-week average, at 298,750, is down fractionally for the 1st decrease since way back at the beginning of November.

The December 13 week is the sample week for the December employment report and comparisons with the sample week of the November employment report are mixed. A look at the separate weeks shows a 3,000 improvement but a look at the 4-week averages shows an 11,000 rise.

Continuing claims, where data lag by a week, are also mixed. Continuing claims in the December 6 week, at 2.373 million, are down a very substantial 147,000 but merely reverse the prior week's 148,000 surge.

The 4-week average, at 2.397 million, is up 10,000 in the latest data with the 4-week average trending roughly 30,000 above the month-ago comparison. Good news, though, comes from the unemployment rate for insured workers which is down 1 tenth and back at its recovery low of 1.8 percent.

There are no special factors affecting today's report, one that is not signaling a significant shift, either higher or lower, for the December employment report.