The number of U.S. workers filing for first-time jobless benefits fell a smaller-than-expected 27,000 last week, as storms in many parts of the country failed to generate new claims, a government report showed on Thursday.
Initial jobless claims hit a seasonally adjusted 332,000 for the week ended February 17, the Labor Department said.
The claims figures for the week ended February 10, upwardly revised to 359,000, were affected by winter storms that shut down areas of the Midwest and Northeast.
Economists polled ahead of the report were expecting claims to fall to 325,000 in the latest week.
The four-week moving average of new claims, a more reliable measure of employment conditions because it irons out weekly volatility, rose for the third straight week and to the highest level in more than two months.
The four-week average rose to 328,000 from 326,750 in the previous week.
The number of workers continuing on unemployment benefits after drawing an initial week of aid, fell 45,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.51 million in the week ended February 10, the most recent week these figures were available.