The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits (search) rose 5,000 last week, slightly less than expected, a government report showed Thursday.

First-time claims for state unemployment insurance aid rose to 310,000 in the week ended July 23 from an upwardly revised 305,000 the week before, the Labor Department (search) said. That level is below 340,000 claims for the same period a year earlier.

The rise in new claims was less than expected by Wall Street (search), which forecast 317,000 new claims after an original reading of 303,000 in the week ended July 16.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors behind the rise.

The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths weekly volatility to provide a better sense of the pace of layoffs, fell for the second straight week, dropping to 318,250 from 318,500 in the previous week.

The number of people who remained on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid rose 32,000 to 2.6 million in the week ended July 16, the latest week for which figures are available.