Applications for US unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000 last week, though the figure was distorted for the second straight week by California's efforts to clear backlogged claims.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average rose 11,750 to 336,500.

California is working through a large backlog caused by computer upgrades. Michigan has also been clearing a backlog that occurred after similar computer changes.

Applications also rose by 15,000 two weeks ago because of the partial government shutdown, as furloughed private-sector workers sought benefits. The spokesman wouldn't say what the impact was last week.

About 70,000 furloughed federal employees sought benefits in the week ended Oct. 5, but they aren't included in the overall totals. The government opened for business on Thursday after a 16-day shutdown.