The number of Americans filing first-time unemployment claims fell 89,000 from last week to 803,000, marking its lowest level in three weeks, the Labor Department said Wednesday.
Analysts expected 885,000 claims for the week ending Dec. 19. The previous week’s level was revised up 7,000 from 885,000 to 892,000.
The states of Colorado, Illinois and Virginia saw the highest rises in claims, while California, New York and Ohio posted major declines.
The world’s largest economy lost 22 million jobs in March and April and has since been able to fill about half of those positions.
Congress agreed Monday on a $900 billion relief bill to stimulate the economy. Although the package came before Dec. 26 when millions of Americans were set to lose unemployment benefits, $600 individual checks for those without jobs were seen as a short measure.
But US President Donald Trump signaled he may not sign the agreement and asked that direct payments to taxpayers be increased to $2,000.
Major US indexes showed optimism before the markets opened at 9.30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) with the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 futures each up 0.2% and Nasdaq futures up 0.1%.
Near-zero interest rates and low borrowing costs in the US led investors to turn their attention to precious metals and cryptocurrencies, which have been fluctuating since Monday.
Before the opening bell on Wall Street, gold was up 0.4% at $1,868 and silver gained 1.4% to $25.5.
After Bitcoin passed the $20,000 historical threshold last Wednesday, the cryptocurrency was at $23,594 with a 0.5% gain.
Crude oil prices were up 0.2% for the day with international benchmark Brent trading slightly above the support level of $50.