The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits rose by 11,000 to 278,000 in the seven days ended Jan 31. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 290,000. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 6,500 to 292,750, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average smoothens out seasonal volatility in the weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. Also, the government said continuing claims increased by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.4 million in the week ended Jan 24. Continuing claims reflect the number of people already receiving benefits. Initial claims from two weeks ago were revised to 267,000 from 265,000.
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