A report released by the Labor Department on Thursday unexpectedly showed a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended February 17th.
The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 222,000, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 229,000.
The drop surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to come in unchanged compared to the 230,000 originally reported for the previous month.
The less volatile four-week moving average also fell to 226,000, a decrease of 2,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 228,250.
The Labor Department noted claims taking procedures in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands have still not returned to normal.
Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, slid by 73,000 to 1.875 million in the week ended February 10th.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims dropped to 1,926,500, a decrease of 16,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,942,750.