The number of U.S. workers signing up for jobless benefits edged up a smaller-than-expected 4,000 in a holiday-shortened week, a government report showed on Thursday.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance rose to a seasonally adjusted 319,000 for the week ended Sept. 8, from a downwardly revised 315,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.
The week included the Labor Day holiday, and while the claims data is seasonally adjusted, it is difficult to adjust around holidays.
Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting claims to rise to 325,000 from the previously reported 318,000.
U.S. Treasury bond prices inched up shortly after release of the report. U.S. stock futures added to gains. Analysts said these latest claims numbers pointed to more resilience in the labor market than last week's August unemployment report, which showed that the economy shed jobs for the first time in four years.
"This is giving hope that the economy isn't as bad. It translates that the consumer is still there, which is very important to the whole process," said Andre Bakhos, president of Princeton Financial Group in Princeton, New Jersey.
The four-week moving average for initial claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, dipped to 324,000 from 325,000.
Meanwhile, the number of unemployed still on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid fell by 6,000 to 2.585 million, for the week ended Sept. 1, the latest period these figures were available. That was in line with expectations.
The latest jobless claims figures came after the government reported last Friday that non-farm employers trimmed payrolls by 4,000 jobs in August, raising expectations that the Federal Reserve would reduce interest rates to help boost the economy amid turmoil in the housing and mortgage markets.
Markets are awaiting retail sales and industrial production reports on Friday for more conclusive evidence about whether turmoil in these markets has exacted a significant toll on the broader economy.
The Federal Reserve's interest-rate setting Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 18.