The Labor Department says weekly applications increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the sixth straight week to 365,500, the lowest since March 31.
The decline in the four-week average suggests the job market could be improving a bit. But economists are viewing last month's figures with some caution because the government struggles every July to account for temporary summer shutdowns in the auto industry. This year, some automakers skipped shutdowns, resulting in fewer layoffs.
When applications consistently fall below 375,000, it suggests hiring is strong enough to pull the unemployment rate down.