WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims dropped for the fourth straight week after spiking because of the partial federal government shutdown, the Labor Department said Thursday.
About 336,000 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, down from an upwardly revised 345,000 the previous week. The drop was in line with analyst expectations.
The less-volatile four-week average fell to 348,250, down 9,250 from the previous week.
Economists say that claims below 350,000 a week indicate moderate labor market growth. The government is set to report October job creation and unemployment figures on Friday.
Analysts forecast the economy added 120,000 jobs last month, down from 148,000 in February, and the unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point to 7.3%.
The weekly claims figures have been skewed in recent weeks, first by computer upgrade problems in California and Nevada in September and then by the 16-day partial federal government shutdown last month.
The furlough of about 800,000 federal workers on Oct. 1 caused claims to spike to 373,000 early last month before slowly coming down. Claims had averaged about 330,000 in late summer, the best levels since the Great Recession.
Initial claims by federal employees dropped to 4,011 in the week ending Oct. 26, the latest detailed data available. That was down from 14,423 the previous week and a high of 44,136 the week before that.