WASHINGTON – Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits rose by 5,000 to a still very low level of 239,000 in the Feb. 11 week, below the 245,000 level expected, data released by the Labor Department Thursday showed.

Seasonal adjustment factors had expected a decrease of 7.2%, or 18,701, in unadjusted claims in the current week. Unadjusted claims instead fell by 13,637 to 246,076. The current week's unadjusted level was well below the 258,380 level in the comparable week a year ago.

There were no special factors is this week's data and no states were estimated.

The four-week moving average for initial claims rose by only 500 to 245,250 in the Feb. 11 week after hitting a 43-year low in the previous week. If the headline number of claims does not change next week and there are no revisions, the average will fall by 5,250 as a 260,000 level rolls out of the calculation, setting another new decades-low level.

The level of continuing claims fell by 3,000 to 2.076 million in the Feb. 4 week. Before seasonal adjustment, continuing claims for the Feb. 4 week fell by 19,110 to 2.464 million. This level was well below the 2.658 million level seen in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate held steady at 1.5%, down from 1.7% a year earlier.

The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is well below that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and labor force reentrants included in the monthly report.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.