New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell modestly last week but a closely followed trend reading edged higher, pointing to ongoing weakness in the nation's labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped by 2,000 in the week ending October 22 to a seasonally adjusted 402,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The government raised slightly its estimate for claims filed during the prior week to 404,000.
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Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging down to 400,000 from the previously reported 403,000.
The level of weekly claims remains well above pre-recession levels and has dipped below 400,000 only on brief occasions this year, suggesting no fast turnaround is imminent for the moribund jobs market.
A Labor Department official said there were no unusual factors influencing the calculation of jobless claims.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, rose 1,750 to 405,500.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid dropped 96,000 to 3.645 million in the week ended October 15.
Economists had forecast so-called continuing claims at 3.7 million.
A total of 6.68 million people were claiming unemployment benefits in the week ended October 8, down from 6.70 million during the prior week.