The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week but the number of people staying on the benefit rolls after collecting an initial week of aid fell for the first time since January, a government report showed on Thursday.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance rose 3,000 to a higher-than-expected seasonally adjusted 608,000, the Labor Department said. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting claims to dip to 600,000 from a previously reported 601,000.

However, so-called continued claims tumbled 148,000 to a smaller-than-anticipated 6.69 million in the week ending June 6, the latest week for which data is available. It was the lowest level since May 9, and the largest one-week drop since November 2001.

In another sign labor market weakness may be easing, the 4-week moving average for new claims, considered to be a better gauge of underlying trends because it smoothes out week-to-week volatility, dipped to 615,750, the lowest level since February 14.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)