The numbers: Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Initial claims have been below the benchmark level of 300,000 for 111 weeks in succession with a very prolonged period of low claims. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 242,000.
The smoothed-out four week average is 243,000, a small decrease from prior weeks when claims averaged closer to 250,000.
US financial markets were little moved by the data. The current employment index improved 2 points, its fifth consecutive positive reading.
This week's claims data covers the reference week for the April BLS Establishment Survey. Employers added an average of about 175,000 jobs a month from January through March. This figure was below expectations of 2.02mn and the lowest figure since April 2000.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also edged down to a almost seventeen-year low of 2,023,500, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 2,025,500.
An acceleration in employment growth would confirm that March's moderation was weather-driven and underscore the economy's strong fundamentals despite indications that growth slowed to below a 1.0 per cent annualized rate in the first quarter.