New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits dipped last week as the ailing jobs market continued to zigzag slowly toward better health, government data released Thursday showed.


Initial jobless claims fell by 23,000 to 369,000 in the week ending October 20, the Labor Department said.

That was better than most analysts expected; the average estimate was 375,000.

The Labor Department revised the prior week's number up to 392,000, from an estimate of 388,000.

"Initial claims continue to bounce around because of seasonal adjustment issues, reducing the usefulness in gauging the health of the job market," said Ryan Sweet at Moody's Analytics.

In general, new jobless claims, a signal of the pace of layoffs, have been trending downward in recent months.

The four-week moving average was 368,000, up 1,500 from the previous week but still below the high pace of layoffs in 2010 and 2011.

The latest jobless claims report comes less than two weeks before the November 6 election, with a tight race between President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney dominated by voter concerns about the sluggish economy and the high unemployment rate, currently at 7.8 percent.