Initial applications for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, but still hovered at pre-recession levels.
Claims for jobless benefits increased 21,000 from the prior week to 311,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists had expected an increase to 295,000 during the week ended Aug. 9.
Last week's applications jumped to a six-week high, but analysts said the broader trend is toward an improving labor market with fewer layoffs.
There were more jobs open in June than at any time in more than 13 years. And July was the sixth-straight month that the U.S. added more than 200,000 net new jobs — a streak not seen since 1997.
The four-week moving average for jobless claims, which erases some of the volatility in the weekly numbers, increased 2,000 to 295,750.
Claims for the week ended Aug. 2 were revised up 1,000 to 290,000.