The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to steadily improving labor market conditions, despite two straight months of weak hiring.
Separately, U.S. consumer prices rose in January as unseasonably cold weather boosted demand for electricity and heating fuel, but inflation pressures remained muted.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits falling to 335,000 in the week ended Feb. 15.
The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 1,750 to 338,500.
The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index edged up 0.1 percent, with increases in the cost of household energy accounting for most of the increase. The CPI had risen 0.2 percent in December and last month's gain was in line with economists' expectations.