Claims for jobless benefits drop by 25,000

Applications fell in New Jersey by nearly 24,000 as storm-related claims dropped. They also were down by nearly 6,700 in New York, which also was hit hard by the storm. 

Economists argue that the labor market is healthier when applications fall below 375,000, with a hiring pace that is fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which now sits at 7.9 percent as more workers began the job search and not all of them found work. 

A separate report on Thursday showed that job cuts increased for the third consecutive month in November, as employers announced plans to shed 57,081 workers from their payrolls, up 20 percent from October, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported.

Employers have now announced 490,806 job cuts this year but, so far, the yearly total is 13 percent lower than the 564,297 job cuts announced through November 2011.

The November surge was led by the bankruptcy of Hostess Brands and the layoff of more than 18,000 workers.

"Job cuts this year have really been driven by a handful of large-scale cuts," said Rick Cobb, executive vice president of Challenger.

On Wednesday, Citigroup announced 11,000 job cuts, which will be included in December's data.