US jobless claims fall

Washington (AFP) –


Fewer Americans filed new claims for US unemployment insurance benefits last week as the labor market overall shows improvement, government data released Thursday showed.

Initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, fell by 16,000 to 269,000 in the week ending February 6, the Labor Department said. The prior week's level of 285,000 was not revised.

Last week's claims level was the lowest since December 19.

The drop in claims surprised analysts, whose average estimate was for an increase to 280,000.

The Labor Department said there were no special factors impacting the seasonally adjusted numbers.

The trend in claims has headed lower for the past 12 months, although there has been a slight pickup in recent months.

Last week the four-week moving average fell by 3,500 to 281,250. It was 288,500 a year ago.

The US unemployment rate fell to an eight-year low of 4.9 percent in January but hiring slowed, fresh evidence of the US economy hitting a soft patch amid a global slowdown.