New claims for U.S. jobless aid unexpectedly fell 5,000 last week, Labor Department data showed on Thursday, and remained at levels suggesting a healthy employment climate.

First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits declined to 308,000 in the week ended Sept. 9, compared with an upwardly revised 313,000 the prior week.

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It was the lowest level of claims since the week ended July 22, the Labor Department said, but an official said there were no special factors affecting the data.

Wall Street analysts polled by Reuters had expected a rise to 315,000 new claims last week, after an initially reported 310,000 the previous week.

New claims have been stuck in a narrow range for much of the year, indicating the layoff pace has steadied.

The four-week moving average of new claims, which smooths volatile weekly data to provide a better picture of underlying labor market trends, declined 1,500 last week to 314,250.

The number of people who continued to collect jobless benefits after drawing an initial week of aid rose 18,000 to 2.499 million in the week ended Sept 2, the latest for which figures are available. The gain almost matched the forecast for 2.500 million continued claims.

Financial markets look closely at the claims data for signs of labor market tightness, which the Federal Reserve is

monitoring as it ponders inflation pressures and whether it can afford to keep interest rates steady.

Investors expect the Fed to hold rates unchanged at 5.25 percent when it meets on Wednesday, after halting a two-year rate hike capmaign at its last policy gathering, on Aug. 8.

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