NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- First-time filings for unemployment claims declined in the most recent week, but were above the key 400,000 level for the second straight week, according to a government report issued Thursday.
There were 403,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended April 16, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was down 13,000 from the previous week's revised 416,000.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected initial claims to total 390,000 in the latest report.
While the drop in initial claims was smaller than expected, it was "a step in the right direction" after an unexpected jump in the previous week, said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist for Plante Moran Financial Advisors.
"The recent slip notwithstanding, the employment market still appears to be in the midst of an extended period of gradual improvement that is expected to continue in the months ahead," he said.
The 4-week moving average of initial claims, which smoothes out volatility, rose 2,250 to 399,000 -- holding below the key 400,000 threshold.
In addition to the decline in initial claims, the number of Americans filing for ongoing claims for unemployment benefits dropped 7,000 to 3,695,000 in the week ended April 9, the most recent week available.
The number was roughly inline with expectations. Economists had forecast 3,650,000 continuing claims for the week.
The 4-week moving average of continuing claims fell 17,500 to 3,716,750, down from a revised 3,734,250 in the previous week.
The trend remains consistent with the overall improvement in the labor market. The unemployment rate fell for a fourth straight month in March to 8.8%, the lowest since March 2009, as the economy gained 216,000 jobs.
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