WASHINGTON - The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless insurance fell for the second week in a row and the four-week moving average of claims was the lowest in nearly a year, government data showed on Thursday, pointing to improvements in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped last week to a seasonally adjusted 502,000, the lowest since January, from a revised 514,000 the prior week. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected initial claims to fall to 510,000 from an initially reported 512,000.

The four-week moving average, considered a better gauge of underlying trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, decreased to 519,750, the lowest since a matching level in the week ended November 29, 2008.

The number of those collecting long-term unemployment benefits also fell, to 5.631 million in the week ended October 31, the most recent week for which data is available, the lowest since March.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Editing by Andrea Ricci)