The number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits fell by 9,000 last week, the government said on Thursday, though a more reliable gauge of layoff trends rose to its highest in more than two years.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance aid fell for the second straight week, slipping to 348,000 in the week ended February 9, down from a slightly upwardly revised 357,000 for the prior week, the Labor Department said.
The number of new claims was slightly more than the 347,000 Wall Street forecast.
The four-week moving average of new claims, considered a more accurate barometer because it irons out weekly volatility, rose to its highest since October 22, 2005, which was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The four-week moving average of new claims rose for the third straight week, climbing to 347,250 in the week ended February 9 from 335,250 for the previous week.
The number of people remaining on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid fell 9,000 to 2.76 million in the week ended February 2, the latest period for which figures were available. Wall Street economists forecast 2.79 million so-called continued claims.