The U.S. Labor Department said the number of layoffs have declined across the nation.

The number of people signing up for unemployment assistance dropped by 9,000 last week to a nationwide total of 280,000.

U.S. economy, 3rd quarter upward revision, Dec. 23
U.S. economy, 3rd quarter upward revision, Dec. 23, 2014

Economists use "initial jobless claims" as a way to keep track of the number of people losing jobs. Many experts said jobless claims at this level are a sign of an improving job market as employers hang on to existing employees and begin hiring new ones.

This is the latest in a series of mostly upbeat economic reports recently, including one that showed U.S. economic growth rising at a 5 percent rate in the third quarter and another showing unemployment at the lowest level in years (5.8 percent).

Reports show the economy has been helped by falling energy prices and rising confidence by consumers and businesses. 

A government report Wednesday showed U.S. oil supplies growing strongly, which prompted oil prices to decline further.