) -- The number of initial jobless claims ticked up a little more than expected last week after declining for five straight weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number of first-time applications for unemployment benefits increased by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 474,000 last week. The prior week's figure was unrevised at 457,000. The consensus economist's estimate showed that many expected initial claims to edge lower to 455,000, according to



Officials reportedly noted that the step up in new claims was due to an increase in seasonal industry layoffs and a flood of applications originally kept back during the holiday-shortened week for Thanksgiving.

But the four-week moving average, which tends to iron out wild week-to-week fluctuations, fell by 7,250 to 473,750, its lowest since September 2008.

The number of continuing claims for the week ended Nov. 28 also declined to their lowest mark since February. The number of people continuing on jobless benefit rolls dropped by 303,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.16 million. That's down from the prior week's slightly revised 5.46 million mark. Analysts expected a fall to 5.45 million.

On Friday, the government reported that the nation's economy lost far fewer jobs than expected in November.

The economy shed 11,000 jobs from nonfarm payrolls, its best showing since December 2007. The nation's unemployment rate also fell to 10% from 10.2% in October.

But recent weeks continued to offer a cadre of layoff announcements, with job-cut news from the likes of

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With political pressure mounting because of the downbeat jobs picture,

President Barack Obama laid out a jobs plan this week, highlighted by small business tax incentives, infrastructure projects and efficient energy technology initiatives.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York