New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, but held above the key 400,000 level, according to government report on Thursday.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000, the Labor Department said, unwinding some of the prior week's quarter-end jump.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 392,000. The prior week's figure was revised up to 416,000 from the previously reported 412,000.
The four-week moving average of unemployment claims, a better measure of underlying trends, rose 2,250 to 399,000.
The claims data covered the survey period for April's nonfarm payroll report, which will be released in early May. Employers added 216,000 jobs in March, the most in 10 months, with the unemployment rate slipping to a two-year low of 8.8 percent from 8.9 percent.
Jobless claims below the 400,000 mark are usually associated with steady job growth. Despite the increase last week, the four-week average has now been below that level for an eighth straight week.
A Labor Department official said three states - Pennsylvania, Virginia and Alaska -- had been estimated for last week's data, raising the possibility for large revisions next week.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 7,000 to 3.70 million in the week ended April 9, the lowest level since September 2008. Economists had expected so-called continuing claims to slip to 3.67 million from a previously reported 3.68 million.
The number of people on emergency unemployment benefits dropped 23,693 to 3.53 million in the week ended April 2, the latest week for which data is available. A total of 8.30 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs.