The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, pointing to labor market strength that could keep Federal Reserve interest rate hikes on the table this year.
A separate report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve suggested business activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region improved slightly, but were still struggling.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 262,000 for the week ended Feb. 13, the lowest reading since November, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's claims were unrevised.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 275,000 in the latest week.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 8,000 to 273,250 last week.