With the more closely watched monthly jobs report looming, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday unexpectedly showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended August 27th.

The report showed initial jobless claims edged down to 232,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised level of 237,000.

The dip came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 248,000 from the 243,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims slipped to their lowest level since hitting 231,000 in the week ended June 25th.

"After trending higher for several months, initial claims have drifted lower, providing more evidence that despite some loss of momentum in economic activity, labor market conditions remain tight," said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also edged down to 241,500, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week's revised average of 245,500.

Meanwhile, the report showed continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, rose by 26,000 to 1.438 million in the week ended August 20th.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also crept up to 1,428,500, an increase of 4,500 from the previous week's revised average of 1,424,000.

"We expect continued claims, which over time track initial claims, to remain stable in the weeks ahead," said Vanden Houten.

On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release a separate report on the employment situation in the month of August.

Economists currently expect employment to jump in 300,000 jobs in August after spiking by 528,000 jobs in July, while the unemployment rate is expected to remain at 3.5 percent.

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