New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose modestly last week but still held at multi-decade lows as the labor market improves, official data released Thursday showed.
Initial jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, rose by 4,000 to 277,000 in the week ending August 15, the Labor Department said. The prior week's claims were revised down from 274,000 to 273,000.
Last week's increase in claims surprised analysts, who expected them to fall to 272,000.
According to the department, there were no special factors impacting the claims numbers which have climbed for four straight weeks. Claims, however, have remained below 300,000 for six months.
The four-week moving average rose by 5,500 to 271,500, well below the year-ago average of 302,500.
"The details of this morning's report support our view that labor market slack has continued to decline," said Rob Martin of Barclays Research.
Briefing.com said the latest claims data suggested job gains should again exceed 200,000 when the Labor Department releases its August jobs report on September 4.
In July, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.3 percent, a seven-year low, and the economy added 215,000 jobs.