) -- The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims dropped less than expected last week, the Labor Department said early Thursday.

The advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims decreased by 6,000 to 388,000 in the week ended Mar. 26 from an upwardly revised 394,000 in the previous week. Economists were expecting initial claims to come in at 383,000, from the originally reported figure of 382,000, according to consensus estimates from


The number of Americans filing continuing claims -- those who have been receiving unemployment insurance for at least a week - was more or less in line with expectations at 3.71 million for the week ended Mar. 19 a decrease of 51,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 3.765 million. Economists expected continuing claims to come in at 3.7 million.

The four-week moving average in initial claims, which smoothes the volatility in week-to-week reports, was 394,250, an increase of 3,250 from the previous week's revised average of 391,000. The four-week moving average in continuing claims was 3.765 million, a decrease of 32,750 from the previous week revised average of 3.798 million.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3% for the week ending Mar 19, unchanged from the previous week.

-- Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

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