The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell marginally last week, but continues to point to steadily improving labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000 for the week ended June 21, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
The prior week's claims were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless aid dipping to 310,000 last week.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the state level data.
The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 2,000 to 314,250 last week.
With the labor market normalizing, there is probably little room for claims to drop much further. The declining claims suggest a recent streak of payroll job gains is likely to be sustained.
Data on job openings has also pointed to strengthening job growth. The economy has experienced four straight months of job gains above 200,000, a stretch last seen in early 2000.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 12,000 to 2.57 million in the week ended June 14.
That covered the survey period for household employment from which the jobless rate is calculated.
So-called continuing claims fell 52,000 between the May and June survey periods, suggesting scope for the unemployment rate to decline from a 5-1/2 year low of 6.3 percent.