The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose 13,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday, but that figure was slightly lower than what analysts had been predicting.

Analysts polled by expected, on average, initial claims in the week ended Aug. 17 to increase to 337,000, above the previous week's revised figure of 323,000. By comparison, there were 374,000 claims filed during the comparable week last year.

The four-week moving average, which smooths week to week fluctuations, fell for the sixth week in a row, by 2,250 to 330,500, the lowest level since November 2007.