Claims for jobless benefits fell for the second straight week, suggesting the labor market recovery is gaining momentum.
The four-week moving average of first-time applications for unemployment insurance benefits -- which smoothes out weekly fluctuations -- tumbled to 366,250, a decrease of 11,000 from the previous week's revised average of 377,250. That's the lowest since April 26, 2008.
In the week ended Feb. 4, applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 15,000 to 358,000, according to data from the Labor Department issued Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters called for an increase of 3,000.
Jobless claims have registered below the key 400,000 mark -- a level historically associated with an improving labor market -- for 13 consecutive weeks.
The labor market is coming back, there's no doubt about it, Steven Leslie, lead analyst for financial services at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said before the report.
There's definitely an upward trend in the labor market no matter how you look at it, either seasonally adjusted or unadjusted, Leslie said. If you draw some trend lines, you'll see that the labor market is improving.
Continuing claims, which include people filing for the second week of benefits or more, rose by 64,000 to 3,515,000 in the week ended Jan. 28.
The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
The four-week moving average was 3,498,000, a decrease of 33,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,531,000.
The latest unemployment report showed employers added 243,000 workers to their payrolls in January, and the jobless rate dropped unexpectedly to 8.3 percent, the lowest level since February 2009, according to the Labor Department.
That's a pretty good sign and the real reason for it is because of the underlying economic growth, Leslie said.