NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Jobless claims fell in the United States last week, the government said Thursday, as the labor market continued its slow recovery from a long slump.
The Labor Department said 355,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits in the week ended Nov. 15, compared with a revised reading of 370,000 in the prior week. Economists, on average, expected 365,000 new claims, according to Briefing.com.
U.S. stock market futures had little reaction to the report, pointing to a negative opening on Wall Street. Treasury bond prices rose.
The labor market has long been one of the weakest aspects of the U.S. economy. Even after the latest recession ended in November 2001, nearly a million jobs were lost during the longest stretch without job creation since World War II.
But jobless claims have fallen in recent weeks, and the economy began to add workers to payrolls in September and October. Economists hope that, as the economy's recovery gathers steam, the labor market will continue to improve.
Most economists consider new claims below the 400,000 threshold as a sign of an improving labor market, and last week was the seventh consecutive week of jobless claims below 400,000.
The four-week moving average of new claims, which irons out the volatility of the weekly data, fell to 367,250 in the week ended from a revised 376,250 in the prior week.
The four-week moving average was the lowest since 365,500 in the week ended Feb. 24, 2001, just before the economy entered recession, as measured by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
But continued claims, the number of people out of work for a week or more, rose to 3.5 million for the week ended Nov. 8, the latest data available, from a revised 3.48 million the prior week.