Initial jobless claims fell 4% last week, coming in lower than most analysts estimates and staying well below 400,000.
The Labor Department said the seasonally adjusted figure of actual initial claims for the week ended Feb. 4 fell to 358,000 from 373,000 the previous week, which was revised upward 6,000.
Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected 370,000 new jobless claims last week with a range of estimates between 365,000 and 375,000. Most economists believe weekly claims below 400,000 indicate the economy is expanding and jobs growth is strengthening. Initial claims have been lower than this threshold for most of the past three months.
The four-week moving average, which is considered a less volatile indicator than weekly claims, decreased by 11,000 claims to 366,250 from the prior week's revised 377,250.
The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate for the week ended Jan. 28 rose to 2.8% from an unrevised 2.7%, according to the Labor Department.
The total number of people receiving some sort of federal unemployment benefits for the week ended Jan. 21 dipped to 7.66 million from 7.67 million the prior week.