Economists polled ahead of the jobless claims report were expecting initial jobless claims to remain unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 310,000 from the prior week.
The four-week moving average of jobless claims, which irons out weekly fluctuations in this data, moved up to 307,250 from 304,500.
A separate Commerce Department report showed inventories at U.S. wholesalers rising 0.3 percent in April as stocks of nondurable goods posted the biggest percentage increase in five months.
The rise in inventories matched economist expectations for a 0.3 percent rise after March's previously reported 0.3 percent gain.
The inventories-to-sales ratio, a measure of how quickly stocks would be depleted at the current sales pace, fell for the fourth straight month, dropping to 1.12 months from 1.13 months in March, according to the Commerce Department data.
"The decline in the wholesale inventory-sales ratio to a record low level supports our view that inventory levels are inadequate and inventory accumulation going forward is likely to support growth," economists at Bear Stearns wrote in a report shortly after release of the Commerce Department data.
Stocks of durable goods, items meant to last at least three years, fell 0.5 percent in April, the biggest drop since July 2003, after a 0.1 percent decline in March.
But inventories of nondurable goods rose 1.6 percent, the biggest monthly gain since November of last year. However, much of that gain reflected a 6.3 percent increase in petroleum stocks ahead of heavy demand expected during the summer driving months.
Automotive inventories fell 3.5 percent, the largest drop since a 4.0 percent fall in April 1998.