U.S. jobless claims up, four-week average lowest since 1973

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FILE PHOTO: Job seekers apply for the 300 available positions at a new Target retail store in San Francisco, California August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo (Copyright Reuters 2017)

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, but the four-week average of claims fell to its lowest level since 1973, pointing to strengthening labor market conditions.

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Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000 for the week ended Feb. 18, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new claims for unemployment benefits rising to 241,000 in the latest week.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better

measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week

volatility, fell 4,000 to 241,000 last week, the lowest reading since July 1973.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)