First-time claims for unemployment benefits rose to 297,000 in the week ending July 4, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Analysts had expected 276,000 seasonally-adjusted initial claims after the previous week's revised 282,000.

Jobless claims have been running at extremely low levels over the course of the late spring and early summer, reflecting a low number of layoffs and hinting at continued job growth.

Thursday's release came close to breaking the streak of sub-300,000 numbers, which has been intact since February.

The jump in claims for the week dragged the four-week moving average for claims up 4,500 to 279,500.

The unemployment benefits claims are released on a weekly basis, providing a near real-time gauge of job market strength.

The monthly jobs numbers released last week showed that monthly net payroll jobs have grown by 221,000 for the past three months.

One negative development in Thursday's report was that the total number of people receiving jobless benefits, which extend up to 26 weeks of unemployment, rose very slight, by 758. The minuscule increase comes amid a steep drop over the course of the past year. The number of total beneficiaries fell from 2.5 million a year ago to 2.1 million in the most recent week.