WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims dipped to 343,000 last week, slightly better than analyst expectations and a sign that the labor market continues to expand at a moderate pace.
The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time was down 5,000 from the previous week's revised level of 348,000, the Labor Department said Wednesday.
The figures were released a day early because of the Fourth of July holiday.
It was the second straight weekly decline. The less-volatile four-week average fell by 750 to 345,500.
Economists say that weekly claims below 350,000 indicate a moderately growing jobs market.
The government will report June's job-creation and unemployment figures on Friday. Analysts expect the Labor Department to report that the economy added 165,000 net jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 7.5%.