Job Fair New York 2013
A job fair in New York state. Reuters

The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits dropped slightly last week to 320,000, a decrease of 15,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Analysts polled by had expected, on average, initial claims for the seven days between Aug. 4 and Aug. 10 to rise, but only to 339,000, up from the previous week's revised figure of 335,000. By comparison, there were 367,000 first-time claims filed during the comparable week last year (seasonally adjusted).

For the seven days ended Aug. 10, the four-week moving average, which is generally considered a more reliable measure of labor market trends, dropped to 332,000, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week's revised average of 336,000.

"The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending July 27 was 4,586,860, an increase of 65,906 from the previous week," the Labor Department said. "There were 5,704,310 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012."