The numbers: Initial jobless claims rose by 12,000 to 218,000 in the week ended Dec. 23, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. 

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would rise to 215,000.

Last week claims rose a revised 3,000 to 206,000. That compared with the initial estimate of a rise of 2,000 to 205,000.

Key details:  The number of people already collecting jobless benefits in the week ended Dec. 16 rose by 14,000 to 1.875 million.

On an unadjusted basis, claims rose 31,570 to 272,610 in the latest week.

Sixteen states saw falling claims in the past week, led by a sharp drop in Texas.

Big picture: The labor market has been a bright spot for the economy. The big question is can this trend continue. Economists expect job growth to trend lower over the new year. The December jobs data will be released next week.

New jobless claims tend to jump up and down around the holiday shopping that stretches from Thanksgiving until late January because of temporary hiring. Economists say the figures should be treated with caution when trying to glean trends in the labor market.