The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a third straight week last week, but still remain too volatile to offer a clear signal on labor market conditions.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's figure was revised to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported. Last week's drop brought them back to their pre-superstorm Sandy's 360,000-370,000 range. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 380,0000 last week.

COMMENTS

PAUL ZEMSKY, HEAD OF ASSET ALLOCATION, ING INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, NEW YORK

"It's important to see the number falls back to the range.

"Everyone was saying that claims had gone up because of (super storm) Sandy, so it's comforting when you get the confirmation. No additional weakness in the economy is showing up in jobless claims."

PIERRE ELLIS, SENIOR GLOBAL ECONOMIST, DECISION ECONOMICS INC., NEW YORK

"It continues to have a decline in claims since the impact of Sandy. They are restored back to levels before the storm. We could reasonably assume there is no underlying deterioration or acceleration in the labor market before the storm.

"We should still have a relative poor payroll reading tomorrow, but we should have some confidence that payrolls would bounce back in December."

U.S. jobless claims, year-to-date http://link.reuters.com/xew34t

(Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300)