The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week but held close to a six-year low and gave a positive signal for hiring during the month.
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Initial claims for state unemployment benefits climbed 13,000 to 336,000, just above the level expected by economists in a Reuters poll, Labor Department data showed on Thursday.
Despite the increase, the four-week moving average for new claims, which gives a better reading on labor market trends because it smooths out volatility, fell to its lowest level since November 2007.
The data was collected during the same week the Labor Department surveys employers for its monthly employment report, and the trend in claims hinted that hiring may pick up during August.
At 330,500, the four-week average was about 5 percent lower than it was during the employment report's survey week in July, when employers added a lackluster 162,000 jobs to payrolls.
A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated and there was nothing unusual in the state-level data.
The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring the labor market as it mulls plans to draw down a major economic stimulus program in which it buys long term bonds to keep borrowing costs low.
The U.S. central bank has said it plans to start scaling back on the program this year, and many economists expect the Fed will begin reducing monthly bond purchases next month.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid rose 29,000 to about 3 million in the week ended Aug 10.