Initial jobless claims fell 21,000 to 454,000 in the week ended July 3, suggesting that recovery in the labor market remains sluggish. The revised figure for the previous week was 475,000.

The four-week average of initial claims, a clearer measure of employment trends, dropped 1,250 to 466,000, the Department of Labor said on its website.

"The recovery is likely to be a subdued one for some time," Julia Coronado, a senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, told Bloomberg News before the report.

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