(Jobless claims article updated with additional information.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell by 6,000 last week to 472,000, the Labor Department said early Thursday.

The figure was expected to edge up by 2,000 to 475,000 for the week ended Aug. 28, from 473,000 in the prior week, indicating the jobs market may be stabilizing.

The number of people filing continuing claims -- those who have been receiving jobless benefits for at least a week already -- was 4,456,000 from 4,479,00 in the prior week. Continuing claims were expected to drop to 4,435,000.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, which strips out some of the volatility in week-to-week numbers, declined by 2,500 to 485,500.

"We're coming off one off one of the biggest rebounds of the year, so today will be a more of a consolidation day," Anthony Conroy, head trader at ConverEx Group, told CNNMoney. "We haven't been seeing the growth we need, so investors will be paying close attention to the economic data coming in, but the big number will in Friday's jobs report."

Market watchers continue to look forward to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' nonfarm payrolls report on Friday, which measures government jobs as well as private payroll. The report is expected to show an overall decline of 120,000 jobs in August, mostly because of losses in 2010 Census jobs, including an expected increase of 25,000 jobs in the private sector.

On Wednesday, private payrolls firm Automatic Data Processing ( ADP) reported that private employers unexpectedly shed 10,000 jobs in August.

Wall Street economists had believed payrolls would pick up a modest 13,000 jobs. The reported July gain also was scaled back in the report's revisions, now showing private managers added 37,000 positions instead of the gain of 42,000 originally reported.

In July, overall payrolls declined by 131,000 and private payrolls gained 71,000.

"Here in the U.S., you get an ADP number that's really not all that disappointing, considering that jobs numbers have been so bad of late and ADP tends to underestimate nonfarm payrolls anyways," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management, noting that the ADP report often gives a more dispiriting view on private sector hiring compared to the government monthly jobs assessment.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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