U.S. initial jobless claims fell 7,000 to 340,000 in the most recent week reported, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday -- a level that suggests that, while job growth may not be robust, the labor market continues to heal via reduced layoffs.

The more-telling four-week moving average also declined by 7,000 to 348,750 -- a five-year low for the key metric. Economists emphasize the four-week moving average, as it smooths out anomalies due to holidays, strikes and weather-related layoffs, etc.

The Labor Department also said continuing claims rose by 3,000 to 3.09 million for the week end Feb. 23 -- the latest week for which data is available. A year ago, continuing claims totaled 3.43 million.