The number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week fell to a five-week low, fuelling optimism over the strength of the labor market, official data showed on Thursday. In a report, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending March 21 declined by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000 from the previous week’s total of 291,000. Analysts had expected initial jobless claims to fall by 1,000 to 290,000 last week. Continuing jobless claims in the week ended March 14 fell to 2.416 million from 2.422 million in the preceding week. Analysts had expected continuing claims to decline to 2.403 million. The four-week moving average was 297,000, a decline of 7,750 from the previous week’s total of 304,750. The monthly average is seen as a more accurate gauge of labor trends because it reduces volatility in the week-to-week data. EUR/USD was trading at 1.1018 from around 1.1015 ahead of the release of the data, GBP/USD was at 1.4939 from 1.4934 earlier, while USD/JPY was at 118.66 from 118.69 earlier. The US dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was at 96.62, compared to 96.60 ahead of the report. Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open. The Dow futures pointed to a drop of 0.7%, the S&P 500 futures shed 0.65%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures tumbled 1.1%. Elsewhere, in the commodities market, gold futures traded at $1,211.00 a troy ounce, compared to $1,210.10 ahead of the data, while crude oil traded at $50.84 a barrel from $50.73 earlier.