After rising for a few weeks, initial jobless claims fell nearly 8.4% last week to 404,000, well below analysts' estimates and the largest decline since February. The Labor Department said the seasonally adjusted figure of actual initial claims for the week ended Jan. 15 fell by 37,000 from the previous week's downwardly revised figure of 441,000. Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected jobless claims to come in at 420,000 with a range of estimates from 397,000 to 435,000. A survey projected new claims of 430,000 for last week. Weekly claims continue to inch closer to 400,000, which is the level most economists believe indicates the economy is expanding and jobs growth is strengthening. The four-week moving average, which is considered a less volatile indicator than weekly claims, decreased by 4,000 to 411,750 from a revised average of 415,750. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained 3.1% for the week ended Jan. 8, according to the Labor Department. The total number of people receiving some sort of federal unemployment benefits continues to climb, rising another 4.4% to more than 9.6 million for the week ended Jan. 1. Write to Jason Philyaw.