- The number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week fell more-than-expected, easing concerns over the strength of the 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 February 1 declined by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 331,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 351,000.

Analysts had expected jobless claims to fall by 16,000 to 335,000 last week.

Continuing jobless claims in the week ended January 25 rose to 2.964 million from 2.949 million in the preceding week. Analysts had expected continuing claims to rise to 2.998 million.

The four-week moving average was 334,000, a decrease of 250 from the previous week''s average of 334,250. 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 euro added to losses against the U.S. dollar, with EUR/USD shedding 0.31% to trade at 1.3491, compared to 1.3496 ahead of the data.

Meanwhile, the outlook for U.S. equity markets remained higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures indicated a gain of 0.4% at the open, S&P 500 futures pointed to an increase of 0.4%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a rise of 0.4%.

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