New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose by 5,000 to 274,000 in the seven days ended August 8, the Labor Department said Thursday, in a report suggesting continued improvement in the labor market. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast initial claims to hold steady at 270,000. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, edged down by 1,750 to a seasonally adjusted 266,250, its lowest level since April 2000. The four-week average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. The department said continuing jobless claims increased by 15,000 to 2.27 million in the week ended Aug. 1. These claims reflect people already receiving unemployment checks.
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