New applications for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 last week to 428,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

Analysts had expected the number of new jobless claims to dip to around 420,000.

The rolling four-week average of initial claims for unemployment benefits, seen as a more reliable guide to trends in the labor market, climbed by 500 to 426,750, a sign of persistent weakness two years after the official end of the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression.

In the week ending June 18, the number of people receiving state unemployment benefits fell 12,000 to 3.7 million.

Payments were going to another 3.3 million Americans under federal emergency programs adopted in the face of the severity of the recession.

The official U.S. unemployment rate climbed to 9.1 percent in May as only 54,000 net new jobs were created. More than 8.4 million jobs were destroyed during the recession.

Although gross domestic product has grown over the past two years, nearly 14 million people remain out of work.

The higher U6 unemployment rate, which includes part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs and people who have given up looking, fell slightly last month to 15.8 percent.