NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits continued a slow slide downward last week.

The Bureau of Labor reported that 418,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 2, a slightly better than expected drop of 14,000. Economists were predicting initial claims to come in higher at 425,000, according to Briefing.com.

In the previous week, 432,000 Americans filed initial claims.

Continuing claims for the week ending June 25. came in at 3.68 million, down from 3.72 million from the prior week. That drop was also better than predicted. Analysts were looking for continuing claims to come in around 3.7 million, according to Briefing.com.

The four-week moving average on initial claims ticked down by 3000 to 424,750.

The report on private jobs and the weekly initial claims data comes ahead of tomorrow's key government unemployment report. The market has been climbing in anticipation of jobs data as well as the kickoff of earnings season next week.

The slide in initial claims still suggests that the labor market has slowed down relative to the spring. "Claims data have been trending sideways, while continuing claims data have slowly moved lower," said a Barclays report.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Chao Deng.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to: @chao_deng

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>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Chao Deng.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to: @chao_deng

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

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