A key gauge of U.S. inflation has dropped for a second month in a row.

Thursday's report from the Labor Department says the consumer price index dropped one-half a percentage point in October.

Analysts say falling energy costs brought overall prices down.

Economists set aside volatile prices for energy and food to get a clearer picture of the underlying inflationary trend.  By that measure, prices increased a modest one-tenth of a percent for the month. 

The figures may prompt the U.S. central bank to keep interest rates steady at the next meeting in December.

A separate government report says the number of Americans applying for unemployment assistance fell by 2,000 last week (to just 308,000) bringing them to a level consistent with a healthy job market.

Earlier, the U.S. unemployment rate was reported to be 4.4 percent, which is the lowest in five years.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.