First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits inched up by less than expected in the week ended February 8th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report said initial jobless claims crept up to 205,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised level of 203,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 210,000 from the 202,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average was unchanged from the previous week's revised average at 212,000.
Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance fell by 61,000 to 1.698 million in the week ended February 1st.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also dropped to 1,726,750, a decrease of 17,500 from the previous week's revised average of 1,744,250.
Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing stronger than expected job growth in the month of January.
The Labor Department said employment jumped by 225,000 jobs in January following a revised increase of 147,000 jobs in December.
Economists had expected employment to rise by 160,000 jobs compared to the addition of 145,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
Despite the stronger than expected job growth, the unemployment rate inched up to 3.6 percent in January from 3.5 percent in December. Economists had expected the employment rate to remain unchanged.