US jobless claims fall to 14-year low
Now hiring sign (AFP Photo/Spencer Platt)

New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits fell last week in a fresh sign of the improving jobs market, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Initial jobless claims fell by 10,000 to 278,000 in the week ending November 1, the lowest level in 14 years, the Labor Department said.

The reading came in well below the 285,000 expected by analysts.

The prior week's level was revised up by 1,000, but overall the trend in jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, has been heading downward.

The number of jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for eight consecutive weeks.

The four-week moving average of claims fell last week by 2,250 to 279,000, the lowest level since late April 2000. A year ago the average was 347,250.

The claims data came a day ahead of the Labor Department's jobs report for October, a key indicator of the health of the world's largest economy.

The consensus estimate for Friday's report is the unemployment rate will remain unchanged at 5.9 percent, a six-year low, and the economy added 235,000 jobs, slowing slightly from September.