The department revised the previous week's claims from 379,000 to 380,000. In the week that ended Saturday, the department said claims fell by 42,000 -- about 7,000 more than expected -- to 338,000.
The four-week rolling average of first-time unemployment benefits claims rose by 4,250 to 348,000.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week that ended Dec. 14 were in California, up by 4,622, Illinois, up by 3,686 and Massachusetts, up by 2,331.
The largest decreases were in New York, down by 12,706, Pennsylvania, off by 10,866, and Georgia, down by 8,340.