New claims for unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 last week to 481,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Despite the decline, the number of Americans collecting unemployment rose to a 25-year high of 3.5 million, up by one million from the same period last year, the report said.

Earlier this week, ADP reported that the nation's private-sector employers cut 157,000 jobs between September and October. The manufacturing industry alone accounted for 85,000 lost jobs, according to the New Jersey-based business services firm.

The ADP report also showed small employers shed jobs for the first time in six years, with 25,000 fewer jobs at businesses with less than 50 workers. The report was based on a survey of 500,000 U.S. businesses.

According to SurePayroll, a Chicago-based small-business payroll firm, small businesses are still hiring, though at a much slower pace than in recent months.

The Labor Department releases its national unemployment report on Friday.