The number of people filing initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 7,000 last week to the lowest level in six weeks, according to a government report on Thursday which signaled stable conditions in the labor market.

New claims for state jobless benefits fell to 298,000 in the week ended July 22 from an upwardly revised 305,000 new applications in the previous week, the Labor Department said.

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Economists polled by Reuters were expecting claims to rise to 310,000 from an initially reported 304,000 claims in the July 15 week.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors to explain the latest week's drop in claims, which were at the lowest level since the week of June 10, when they were 297,000.

The four-week moving average of new jobless claims, regarded by economists as a more accurate reflection of the labor market than the more volatile weekly number, also fell to 312,750 from 317,000 the previous week.

The number of Americans still drawing unemployment benefits after an initial week of aid fell 23,000 to 2.475 million in the week ended July 15, the latest period for which this data is available. This was slightly higher than economists' forecasts for 2.470 million.

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