) -- The number of Americans filing unemployment claims for the first time showed a smaller-than-expected drop last week, the Labor Department said early Thursday.

Initial jobless claims dropped by 44,000 to 434,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended May 7, from an upwardly revised 478,000. Economists were expecting jobless claims to drop to 423,000 after its strong spike in the previous week.

Continuing claims for the week ended Apr. 30 increased by 5,000 to 3.75 million from the preceding week's revised level of 3.751 million. Economists were expecting continuing claims of 3.7 million.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.0 percent for the week ending April 30, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate of 3.0 percent.

-- Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

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