New claims for US unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week as the overall trend continued to show improvement in the troubled labor market, official data showed Thursday.
Initial jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, fell to 367,000 in the week ending January 28, from the prior week's slightly upwardly revised 377,750 reading, the Labor Department reported.
The decline was better than the average analyst prediction of 375,000 new claims.
The four-week moving average of claims, which helps to smooth volatility, fell for the fourth consecutive week, to 377,500.
The improved claims numbers came ahead of Friday's January labor data, expected to show the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.5 percent amid a fragile economic recovery.
Analysts project the Labor Department will report a slowdown in job creation, with the net number of jobs added to the economy falling to 155,000 from 200,000 in December.