Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the United States rose much less than expected to 366k in the week ending July 12, following a slightly revised 348k in the previous week. Continuing claims fell back 81k to 3.122 million for the week ending July 5, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The 18k rise in initial claims follows a drop of 56k in the previous week's survey.

Prior to last week's dip, claims had been above 380k for four consecutive weeks. A consistent weekly claims level above 400k is commonly considered to be recessionary.

The consensus forecast was for initial claims to come in at 380k.

This week's initial claims figure is below the four-week moving average, which is now 377k.

The consensus forecast was for continuing claims to fall only to 3.180 million following the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 3.203 million, which was initially reported at 3.202 million.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims is now 3.143 million.

By Patrick McGee and edited by Nancy Girgis