WASHINGTON (MNI) - Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits held steady at 374,000 in the August 25 week, slightly higher than expected after a small upward revision to the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.   The median estimate of economists surveyed by MNI was for 371,000, a decline of 1,000 from the initially reported 372,000 level in the August 18 week. That week's claims level was revised up to 374,000.   Unadjusted claims fell only 1,864 to a level of 309,923 in the August 18 week. Unadjusted claims were at a level of 336,761 in the comparable week a year ago.   The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average was 370,250 in the August 25 week, a rise of 1,500 claims from the previous week.   The state data released for the August 18 week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in 22 states and declined in 31 states, with no states unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.   Continuing claims came in at 3.316 million after seasonal adjustment in the August 18 employment survey week, down 5,000 from the previous week, but up 25,000 from the 3.291 million level in the July 14 employment survey week. Unadjusted continuing claims fell 65,115 to 3,103,455 in the week, still below the 3,473,182 level in the comparable week a year ago.   The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate held steady at  2.6% for the 23rd straight week in the August 18 week, still down from the 3.0% rate in the comparable week a year earlier.   The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is well below that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and labor force reentrants included in the monthly report.   The Labor Department said that the level of unadjusted Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits claims fell by 53,318 in the August 11 week, bringing that category total to 2,273,317. Extended benefits claims rose by 1,168 to 5,404 not seasonally adjusted in the same week.   The Labor Department reported that a total of 5,532,245 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the August 11 week, a decline of 62,253 from the previous week and still well below the 7,334,424 persons in the comparable week a year ago. These data are not seasonally adjusted, and include regular state claims, federal employee claims, new veterans claims, the EUC and extended benefits programs, state additional benefits, and STC/Workshare claims.

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