WASHINGTON – The number of new claims for US unemployment insurance tumbled last week to a two-year low, according to official data Thursday, offering hope for the troubled labor market.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 383,000 in the week ending February 5, down nearly nine percent from the prior week.
The department revised upward the previous week's reading to 457,000, from an initial estimate of 415,000.
The 383,000 figure was the lowest since early July 2008, data showed.
Last week's sharp decline in new claims surprised most analysts, who had forecast a drop to 410,000.
Severe winter weather in January continued to skew the numbers, a Labor Department official said.
"We are still unwinding a bit of the weather effect," he told reporters.
Snow storms had paralyzed broad swaths of the country, forcing businesses to close temporarily, which resulted in a big spike in claims during the third week in January.
The four-week moving average, a measurement to smooth out week-to-week volatility, rose to 430,500 last week, up by 1,000 from the revised average of 429,500.
© AFP 2013