The number of people filing for initial U.S. jobless aid fell 37,000 last week despite continued elevated claims in Southeast states struck by a rash of hurricanes, the government said on Thursday.

Initial jobless claims (search) fell to 335,000 last week from a revised 372,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department (search) said, and well below economists' forecast for a drop to 350,000 from the originally reported 369,000 in the week ended Sept. 25.

The closely watched four-week moving average, which irons out week-to-week volatility, rose for the fourth straight week, climbing to 348,500 in the week ended Oct. 2 from 344,250 in the previous week.

The moving average rose to its highest since 355,500 in the week ended Feb. 28.

There were no special factors to explain the overall drop in new claims, but Florida and other Southern states hit by a rash of hurricanes reported high levels of claims, a Labor Department spokesman said.

Hurricane Jeanne (search), which made landfall on Sept. 25, was the fourth severe storm to strike Florida in six weeks.

The number of people continuing to seek claims fell 1,000 to 2.86 million in the week ended Sept. 25, the latest week for which data are available, and the lowest since 2.79 million in the week ended July 10.