The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits was unchanged last week, pointing to a labor market that was treading water.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were a seasonally adjusted 374,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 370,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, rose 1,500 to 370,250.
Jobless claims have risen by 10,000 in August, suggesting some moderation in the pace of job growth this month after payrolls increased 163,000 in July from 64,000 in June.
The state of the labor market, particularly the unemployment rate, could determine whether the Federal Reserve will offer additional monetary stimulus to the economy at its September 12-13 policy meeting.
The unemployment rate, which ticked up to 8.3 percent in July, has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.
Although housing and retail sales data suggest that economic activity picked up early in the third quarter, business spending is weakening and inflation is slowing.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 5,000 to 3.32 million in the week ended August 18. The so-called continuing claims data fell during the week of the August household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived.