New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week as expected, a government report showed on Thursday, but the underlying trend remained tilted toward a gradual improvement in the labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits climbed 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000, the Labor Department said.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 440,000 from the previously reported 435,000. The government revised the prior week's figure up to 437,000.
The data covered the survey week for the government's employment report for November, but weekly claims have been too volatile to provide a good prediction of nonfarm payrolls.
A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data.
The four-week average of new jobless claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market trends, dropped 4,000 to 443,000, the lowest level since the week ending Sept. 6, 2008.
The number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 48,000 to 4.30 million in the week ended Nov. 6, in line with expectations and the lowest since November 2008. The prior week's figure was revised up to 4.34 million.
The number of people on emergency unemployment benefits rose 66,767 to 3.97 million in the week ended Oct. 30. A total of 8.85 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs.