NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment insurance fell slightly last week, according to a weekly government report released Thursday.
There were 460,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended May 22, down 14,000 from an upwardly revised 474,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.
The number of claims was slightly higher than expected. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com forecast new claims to fall to 455,000.
Initial claims have been caught in the mid- to upper-400,000s since November, and economists want to see it move below that bar before calling the start of a recovery.
"It's a stagnant employment situation, and that's not a good thing," said Dan Egan, president of the Massachusetts Credit Union League. "We were expecting and hoping we'd see a greater gain in jobs during this time."
Fears of a double-dip recession and the costs tied to hiring new employees still have business owners in a "cautionary mode," said Egan. Employers need to see consistent improvement in the real estate sector before they really start ramping up their hiring, he said.
The four-week moving average for weekly initial claims was 456,500, up from 454,250 the previous week. The Labor Department tracks the four-week average of the weekly figures, to smooth out the volatility of the measure.
The report also said 4,607,000 people continued to file unemployment claims for their second week or more during the week ended May 15, the most recent data available. That's down from an upwardly revised 4,656,000 the week before.
Standard unemployment benefits usually last 26 weeks. The continued claims number does not include those who have moved into state or federal extensions, or people whose benefits have expired but may still be without a job.
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