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.
The new data show the economy added an average of 201,000 jobs in the October-through-December period.