The new claims activity fell short of Wall Street's forecast of 324,000 claims. The four-week moving average climbed to 333,250 from a revised 332,500 a week earlier. Economists usually view the average as a more reliable yardstick of jobless trends because it evens out weekly fluctuations in the data. But automobile industry strikes and Midwestern flooding have skewed the moving average recently, making it a less useful gauge for now, some economists said.
The number of Americans lining up to collect first-time unemployment benefits rose by 5,000 last week, the government said, but analysts said the level of new claims still suggested a strengthening economy. The Labor Department said weekly jobless claims rose to 322,000 in the week ended 17 May from a downwardly revised 317,000 the week earlier.