Washington: The number of applicants in the US filing new unemployment benefits fell by 29,000 in the week ending May 14 to 409,000 in comparison to the previous week’s figure 438,000,  the labour department said on Thursday. 

But average new jobless claims over the past four weeks, considered a more reliable indicator, rose by 1,250 people to 439,000, the highest level since November, the government said.

In the week ending May 7, the number of people who received an unemployment check (continuing jobless claims) fell by 81,000 to 3.71 million.

Unemployment benefits typically are paid out over a period of 26 weeks, but the federal government prolonged the coverage period in 2008 in several states amid the country's most severe recession in almost 80 years.

In the week ending April 30, the number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programmes - both state and federal - fell by 47,124 to 7.94 million people, the labour department said.