New US claims for jobless benefits rose in early March but continued a record streak of low levels, attesting to the health of job market, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The latest numbers come a day before the department is due to release the closely-watched monthly employment report for February, and with central bankers poised to raise interest rates next week, in large part due to the strong performance of the US labor market in recent months.

New claims for unemployment insurance jumped by 20,000 to 243,000, seasonally adjusted, in the week ending March 4. That was just slightly higher than analysts expected.

The more stable four-week moving average edged up 2,250 to 236,500.

Claims have remained below the level of 300,000 for more than two years, the longest such stretch recorded since 1970.

Though it sees volatile movements from week to week, the unemployment insurance numbers can be used to gauge the prevalence of layoffs and the general health of the employment market.

Analysts say that in the currently tight labor market, employers are likely forgoing layoffs for fear they will not be able to replace workers they let go.