Initial claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose to a six-week high last week but the overall trend continued to show a tightening labour market, government data showed today. 

New jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, rose to 311,000 in the week ending August 9, up 21,000 from the previous week's revised 290,000, the Labor Department said. 

The increase was larger than expected, with the average analyst estimate coming in at 305,000 claims. 

The four-week moving average was up 2,000 to 295,750, but still reflected an improving jobs market. A year ago the average stood at 335,000 claims. 

The US economy generated 209,000 new jobs in July, down from the figure in June but maintaining a solid 200,000-plus monthly streak since February, according to the government. 

The unemployment rate rose by 0.1 points to 6.2%, but it remained near its lowest level in nearly six years and well down from 7.9% at the start of 2013.