WASHINGTON — Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits fell by 5,000 to 366,000 in the February 2 week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The initial claims level in the January 26 was revised up to 371,000 from the previously reported 368,000 level.

A Labor Department analyst said that there were no states estimated and nothing unusual in the state level data.

Seasonal adjustment factors expected unadjusted claims to rise by 23,000 in the February 2 week. Instead, unadjusted claims rose only 4.5%, or 16,696, to 386,176. That level is still below the 401,365 level reported in the comparable week a year ago.

The state data released for the January 26 week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in 4 states and declined in 49 states, with no states unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average was 350,500 in the February 2 week, a decline of 2,250 from the previous week. This was the lowest level since the March 8, 2008 week, when it stood at 346,500.

The level of continuing claims came in at 3.224 million after seasonal adjustment in the January 26 week, a rise of 8,000 from the previous week.

The level of unadjusted continuing claims jumped 41,570 to 3,720,496 in the week, but remains below the 4,097,013 level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment held steady at 2.5% in the January 26 week and remains below the seasonally adjusted 2.8% rate in the comparable week 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.

The Labor Department said that the level of unadjusted Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits claims fell by 288,471 in the January 19 week, bringing that category's total to 1,826,098.

Extended benefits claims rose by 203 to only 860 in the January 19 week, as the program is almost completed.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 5,590,480 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the January 19 week, a drop of 326,513 from the previous week and well below the 7,663,608 persons in the comparable week a year ago. These data are not seasonally adjusted, and include regular state claims, federal employee claims, new veterans claims, the EUC and extended benefits programs, state additional benefits, and STC/Workshare claims.

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

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