The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week to 333,000, a rise of 5,000, but was lower than the number that analysts expected, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S expected, on average, initial claims for the seven days ending on August 3 to rise to 336,000, up from the previous week's revised figure of 328,000. By comparison, there were 368,000 first-time claims filed during the comparable week last year (seasonally adjusted).

For the seven days ended August 3 the four-week moving average, considered a more reliable measure of labor market trends, dropped to 335,500, a decrease of 6,250 from the previous week's revised average of 341,750.

"The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending July 20 was 4,520,948, a decrease of 174,418 from the previous week. There were 5,750,327 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012."