NEW YORK — Oil prices slipped Thursday as the dollar rose against other major currencies.

Benchmark crude for May delivery fell 8 cents to settle at $80.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude, which is priced in dollars, tends to fall in price as the greenback rises and makes oil barrels tougher to buy with foreign currency.

Oil prices initially gained after the Labor Department reported that claims for jobless benefits dropped more than expected last week, before falling back later in the day.

The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims for jobless benefits dropped by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 442,000. That's below analysts' estimates of 450,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

"We're on the cusp of a hiring recovery," said Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities.

Continuing uncertainty about Greece and its possible request for financial aid from the International Monetary Fund would keep the dollar on the strong side, making oil more expensive for investors holding other currencies, analysts said.

The euro was at $1.3291 in late New York trading Thursday, down from $1.3338 late Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the futures contract for natural gas tumbled 3 percent Thursday after the government reported that supplies grew for the first time this year, adding to already bloated reserves.

The U.S. had been burning large volumes of natural gas to heat homes and run power generators this winter as heavy snowstorms blanketed parts of the country. But the drawdown wasn't enough to erase huge surpluses built up during the past few years.

The Energy Information Administration said that at 1.63 trillion cubic feet, natural gas levels are 8 percent higher than the five-year average.

Natural gas for April delivery dropped 12.4 cents to settle at $3.981 per 1,000 cubic feet on the Nymex. Prices fell as low as $3.94 earlier in the day, the lowest on record for the April contract.

In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil fell less than a penny to settle at $2.0693 a gallon, and gasoline lost less than a penny to settle at $2.2177 a gallon.

In London, Brent crude gained 4 cents at $79.66 on the ICE futures exchange. (AP)