WASHINGTON -- New jobless claims dropped last week to 366,000 as the labor market continued to show signs of moderate growth.
The number of people filing for the first-time for unemployment benefits was down 5,000 in the week ending Saturday from the previous week's revised figure of 371,000, the Labor Department said.
Analysts had expected a deeper drop last week, to about 360,000 new claims.
The four-week average, which smooths out some of the volatility in the numbers, fell to 350,500. That was down 2,250 from the previous week.
Economists say that 350,000 new claims a week is consistent with a moderately improving job market.
Last week, the government reported the economy added 157,000 net new jobs in January and the unemployment rate inched up to 7.8%. The job creation was barely enough to keep up with population growth, but the Labor Department also sharply revised up figures for the last three months of 2012.