U.S. jobless claims slide in latest week

Plextronics device technician Jared Schillinger works in one of Plextronics' labs, testing ink that is used to coat solar panels, in Pittsburgh September 16, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Cohn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly fell 21,000 last week, government data showed on Thursday, and a less volatile unemployment claims gauge dipped to an eight-month low.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance declined to a seasonally adjusted 530,000 in the week ending September 19 from a revised 551,000 in the previous week. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting claims to rise to 550,000 from a previously reported 545,000.

The four-week moving average of new claims dipped to 553,500, the lowest since 547,000 in the week ending January 24.

U.S. stock futures moved slightly higher on additional evidence the economy is pulling out of a severe recession.

“Data is again better than expected,” said Steve Goldman, a strategist for Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Connecticut. “Overall for the market, slightly positive news.”

The week’s decline was affected by seasonal factors, a Labor Department analyst said. Seasonal adjustments anticipate a rise in claims in the week after the Labor Day federal holiday in early September, and an unadjusted increase in claims fell short of the expected increase, the official said.

Continued claims of workers still on jobless aid after an initial week of benefits fell by a bigger-than-expected 123,000 to 6.138 million in the week ending September 12. Analysts were expecting claims to dip to 6.19 million.

Reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama