Seasonally adjusted initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly declined to 211,000 in the week ended May 18 from the previous week's 212,000, data from the U.S. Department of Labor showed.
The Econoday consensus estimate was for a 215,000 reading.
The four-week moving average edged down to 220,250 from the prior four-week unrevised average of 225,000.
The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate, which measures the proportion of the labor force receiving unemployment benefits, was unchanged at 1.2% for the week ended May 11.
Insured unemployment edged up to 1,676,000 from the upwardly revised 1,664,000 in the previous week.