WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in late February rose by 8,000 to a one-month high of 219,000, but initial jobless claims still aren't far off from a 50-year low. Economists polled by the MarketWatch had expected claims to total 214,000. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, edged up by 500 to 209,750, the government said Thursday. The monthly average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, fell by 9,000 to 1.72 million.