The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, suggesting little improvement in the labor market.

In the week ending Aug. 11, applications for unemployment insurance payments rose by 2,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 364,000 to 366,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would climb to 365,000 last week.

The four-week moving average, which normally provides a better indication of the underlying trend in labor markets than the weekly number of jobless claims, decreased by 5,500 to 363,750 for first-time benefit applicants.

The number of people filing for benefits after an initial week of aid increased fell 31,000 to 3.31 million in the week ending Aug. 4. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs. The four-week moving average for the week ended Aug. 4 fell by 3,000 to 3.31 million.

Job gains are of great importance, because they lead to income growth, and that supports consumer spending, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

July's jobs report showed that employers added 163,000 jobs in the month, a figure that was much better than the 95,000 jobs economists had called for. But the unemployment unexpectedly rose to 8.3 percent, from 8.2 percent in June.

Stock futures rose. The S&P 500 futures are currently up 0.13 percent, at 1,405.30, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures added 0.11 percent, to 13,149.00.