WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims ticked up last week, but still indicated an improving labor market as the four-week average hit its lowest point in five years.
The number of people filing for the first time for unemployment benefits rose to 336,000 for the week ending Saturday, up 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The reading was better than analysts expected. A Reuters poll of economists projected the figure at 342,000.
The average number of initial claims over the latest four weeks, a less-volatile barometer, dropped by 7,500 to 339,750. The last time it was that low was in February 2008, not long after the start of the Great Recession.
A little more than a year later, the four-week average had spiked to nearly 660,000 initial claims. It has been decreasing slowly ever since, but the pace of decline has picked up in recent months