The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week to 343,000, a decrease of 5,000, which was a lower total number of first-time applicants than analysts were expecting, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S expected, on average, claims for the seven days ended Saturday to fall to 345,000, about 3,000 less than the previous week's revised figure of 348,000. By comparison, there were 374,000 (seasonally adjusted) first-time claims filed during the comparable week last year .

The four-week moving average for the seven days ended June 29, which is considered a more reliable measure of labor market trends than other measures, fell to 345,500, a decrease of 750 from the previous week's revised average of 346,250.

"The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending June 15 was 4,557,765, an increase of 1,059 from the previous week," the Labor Department said in a statement. "There were 5,857,081 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012."