After falling by 42,000 a week ago, first-time claims dropped by 36,000 to 383,000 in the week ending Feb. 5, the department said. The four-week rolling average fell by 16,000, to 415,500.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 9.4 percent to 9 percent in December, but economists define the improvement as slow, given the high number of people who have stopped looking for work and no longer show up statistically as a part of the workforce.
The Labor Department said the biggest increases in claims for the week ending Jan. 29 were reported by California with 12,274 additional claims, Pennsylvania, which added 3,319 and Massachusetts, which added 1,010.
For the week ending Jan. 29, the biggest decreases were reported by North Carolina with a decline of 11,541, followed by Georgia with a decline of 5,607 and Alabama with a decline of 4,128.