The number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week fell more-than-expected, fuelling optimism over the U.S. labor market, official data showed on Thursday.

In a report, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending January 4 declined by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000. Analysts had expected U.S. jobless claims to fall by 10,000 to 335,000 last week from the previous week’s revised total of 345,000.

Continuing jobless claims in the week ended December 28 rose to 2.865 million from 2.815 million in the preceding week. Analysts had expected continuing claims to rise to 2.840 million.

The four-week moving average was 349,000, a decrease of 9,750 from the previous week''s average of 358,750. The monthly average is seen as a more accurate gauge of labor trends because it reduces volatility in the week-to-week data.

Following the release of the data, the U.S. dollar remained lower against the euro, with EUR/USD rising 0.4% to trade at 1.3630.

Meanwhile, U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a gain of 0.25%, S&P 500 futures indicated a rise of 0.2%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures signaled an increase of 0.15%.

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