WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week to 315,000, the lowest level since November, as the labor market showed signs of emerging from a winter chill.
The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits was down from 324,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said. Economists had projected claims to increase to 330,000.
The four-week average fell by 6,250 last week to 330,500.
Claims have been volatile this winter since falling to near a six-year low in late November as severe weather has forced some businesses to temporarily close.
Job creation was disappointing in December and January, when bitter cold and snowstorms plagued much of the country. But the labor market bounced back last month, adding an unexpectedly strong 175,000 net new jobs.
Economists expect job growth to pick up this spring as businesses make up for the winter slowdown.