WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, but continued to point to strengthening labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 291,000 for the week ended Nov. 15, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
The prior week's data was revised to show 3,000 more applications received than previously reported.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 1,750 to 287,500, still at levels consistent with solid employment growth.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 285,000 last week. Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold for 10 straight weeks, a sign that the labor market is tightening.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data, which covered the period during which the government surveyed employers for November's nonfarm payrolls.
Though the four-week average of claims increased 6,250 between the October and November survey period, another month of employment gains above 200,000 is expected.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 73,000 to 2.33 million in the week ended Nov. 8, the lowest since December 2000.
The unemployment rate for people receiving jobless benefits was at 1.8 percent for a 10th straight week
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci) ((Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org)