New claims for US unemployment benefits edged higher last week after the prior week's steep fall, official data showed Thursday in a report that underscored slow healing in the ailing labor market.
Initial jobless claims increased by 8,000 to 365,000 in the week ending July 28, from an upwardly revised 357,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department reported. The reading matched analyst expectations.
The Labor Department's latest data confirmed an overall downward trend in claims, which signal the pace of layoffs, that has been under way in recent months.
The four-week moving average, which helps to smooth week-over-week volatility, fell by 2,750 to 365,500 last week.
The report came on the eve of the keenly awaited official July jobs report. Most analysts expected the United States added a meager 100,000 jobs -- only 20,000 more than in June -- and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.2 percent.
Jim O'Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, noted that the report came two weeks after the sample week for Friday's employment report.
"Nonetheless, the absence of an ongoing rise in claims increases our confidence that last month's 80,000 reading for payrolls overstated weakening in the trend recently. We still forecast a 125,000 rise in tomorrow's report, a bit stronger than the 100,000 consensus."