New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits declined for the second straight week, to the lowest level since the first week of April, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 390,000 in the week ended November 5, slightly below the 400,000 that analysts polled by Reuters had expected. The government revised its estimate for claims during the prior week to 400,000 from 397,000.
Weekly claims still remain well above pre-recession levels and have only dipped below 400,000 -- a threshold many economists believe signifies improving labor market conditions -- 10 times over the past year.
A Labor Department official said a freak fall snowstorm that kept many people housebound in the Northeast did not affect initial jobless claims.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 92,000 in the week ended October 29 to 3.615 million. That was the steepest drop since February, and the lowest level since the week ended September 20, 2008.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, fell to 400,000 from 405,250 the prior week, which was revised up from the previously reported 404,500.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Editing by Andrea Ricci