The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless pay dipped by more than expected last week to 332,000, government data showed on Thursday, although part of this was related to fewer hurricane-related claims in Florida.

A Reuters poll of analysts had forecast first-time claims for state unemployment benefits (search) to shrink to 340,000 in the week ended Oct. 30 from 351,000 the previous week. This was revised from 350,000 initially reported.

The modestly brighter picture will also likely be reflected in October's monthly jobs report, due out on Friday, which will help to shape the outlook for the economy in the fourth quarter and the pace of future interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve (search).

As well as lower initial claims, the four-week moving average of filings, which smoothes out weekly fluctuations to provide a better picture of underlying trends, retreated by 1,500 to 342,000 from a revised 343,500. It had been originally reported at 343,250.

A Labor Department (search) official said that part of the slide in weekly claims was due to a decline in Florida which he said was probably related to fewer people requesting jobless assistance in connection with worksite closures forced by the spate of hurricanes which battered the region in August and September.

Employment has been a weak spot for the American economy, which has grown strongly this year without creating much work.

Analysts expect the October employment report to show 169,000 new jobs were created after a tepid 96,000 gain in September, helped by hiring for hurricane cleanup. But that is still not enough to make a big difference to unemployment.

The number of unemployed on the benefit rolls after claiming an initial week of aid declined by 20,000 to 2.8 million in the week ending Oct. 23, the latest for which figures are available.