The number of Americans filing initial jobless claims (search) dipped last week to 310,000, as expected, suggesting continued improvement in the nation's labor market, a government report showed on Thursday.

First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell 1,000 in the week ended Feb. 26 from 311,000 the previous week, the Labor Department (search) said.

The closely watched four-week moving average of claims, which is considered a more reliable indicator of job market trends because it smooths week-to-week volatility, declined 1,500 to 307,000 — its lowest level since October 2000.

The slowing in the pace of layoffs last week was expected by Wall Street economists. The previous week's initial claims total was revised slightly lower from an originally reported 312,000.

The number of people who remained on the unemployment rolls after claiming an initial week of aid rose 12,000 to 2.67 million in the week ended Feb. 19, the latest period for which data are available.

A more comprehensive look at the U.S. job market will come on Friday, when the Labor Department releases its employment report for February. Economists expect that survey to show a gain of some 220,000 jobs last month, well above January's disappointing 146,000 increase.