[WASHINGTON] New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits dropped below 300,000 last week, pointing to an overall decline in the pace of layoffs, according to Labour Department data released Thursday.
Would-be workers filed 283,000 initial jobless claims in the week ending February 14, a drop of 21,000 from the prior week's unrevised level of 304,000, the department reported.
The decrease was stronger than analysts expected, with the average estimate at 295,000 claims.
The Labour Department said there was no special factor affecting the seasonally adjusted claims numbers.
The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims fell by 6,500 to 283,250. The average, which smooths week-over-week volatility, has fallen fairly steadily over the past 12 months. A year ago the average was 336,500.
The unemployment rate edged up in January to 5.7 per cent from 5.6 per cent in December as more people returned to the labour force amid strong job growth.