By John S. McClenahen Last week, initial claims for unemployment insurance were 345,000, according to data released by the U.S. Labor Department on July 29. The total for the week ending July 24 was 4,000 more than the previous week's revised figure of 341,000 and 5,000 more than the 340,000 that economists generally expected. The department's four-week moving average for initial claims, which smoothes out week-to-week changes and is considered by many economists to be a better reflection of underlying labor market conditions, decreased to 336,250 last week, 1,000 fewer than the previous week's revised average of 337,250. "Looking through [the] volatility associated with summer factory shutdowns, claims look about flat," says UBS Investment Research, New York. "They do not signal any major change in the pace of hiring."