WASHINGTON -- Initial jobless claims rose slightly last week to 333,000 but the average over the past month dropped to its lowest level since 2007, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday was up from the previous week's revised figure of 328,000, the department said.
The rise in claims last week was in line with analyst expectations.
But the less-volatile four-week average dropped last week to 335,500. That was the lowest since November 2007, before the Great Recession began, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Economists say jobless claims below 350,000 a week indicate moderate growth in the labor market.
Claims have been declining consistently this year, a sign of an improving jobs picture.
But the outlook was clouded last week when the government reported 162,000 net new jobs were created in July, weaker than the previous month and less than expected.
The unemployment rate dropped to 7.4% from 7.6% in June.
Federal Reserve policymakers are watching the labor market closely as they decide when to start reducing the central bank's monthly bond-buying stimulus program.
The initial-claims figure for the week ending July 27 was 326,000, which was a 5 1/2-year low. After the Labor Department revision, the 327,000 in claims the first week of May remains the lowest level since January 2008, when the Great Recession had just begun.
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