New applications for unemployment benefits rose to 257,000 in the third week of April, the Department of Labor reported Thursday, up from 243,000 the week before and more than forecasters expected.

Thursday's report, however, represented good news, especially because it showed that the total number of workers receiving unemployment benefits is running at a 17-year low.

Continuing claims for unemployment benefits, which are available for up to 26 weeks in most states, have averaged just over 2 million in the past month. That is the lowest mark since June of 2000, when the workforce was smaller overall and the economy was riding the tech boom.

Low claims for unemployment insurance are a good sign for the economy. They indicate that layoffs are relatively rare.

Because the Labor Department publishes the claims numbers weekly, investors and officials pay close attention.

While new jobless claims did rise in Thursday's report, several analysts suggested that the bounce could be attributable to issues with the Labor Department's seasonal adjustments because of the difficulty with accounting for the Easter holiday.

The jobless claims "data continue to signal an improving labor market, with employment growth more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down," said Jim O'Sullivan, an economist with the forecasting group High Frequency Economics.

Strong jobless claims will raise expectations for the jobs report for April, which will be released next Friday. Last month, payroll job creation disappointed at just 98,000, but economists mostly saw that as a one-off miss, not a sharply slower trend.