The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week to 324,000, a decrease of 18,000, which was less than the number analysts were expecting.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S expected, on average, claims for the seven days ended Saturday to rise to 345,000 from the previous week's 339,000.

For the seven days ended April 20, claims fell to 339,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 355,000. The four-week moving average was 357,500, a decrease of 4,500 from the previous week's revised average of 362,000.