Jobless Claims Up Again

The number of Americans lining up for first-time jobless claims rose unexpectedly for the second consecutive week, a government report showed on Thursday, with inclement weather again blamed.

Claims for state unemployment aid gained 6,000 to 363,000 in the week ended Feb. 7 from a revised 357,000 the previous week, the Labor Department (search) said. That brought claims to the highest level in two months.

Wall Street had expected claims to drop to 345,000 from the originally reported 356,000 in the Jan. 31 week.

"The last two weeks don't necessarily reflect a deterioration in labor market conditions. It's more weather-related," a government official said. Cold weather had been a factor in the Southeast, he said.

Winter weather was also blamed for the previous week's unexpected rise in claims.

The carefully monitored four-week moving average, seen as a more reliable gauge of the jobs situation because it smooths short-term swings, rose to 350,500 from 345,500 the week before and 345,250 over the previous two weeks.

Continued claims were 3.083 million in the Jan. 31 week from 3.106 million in the previous week. A four-week average of that measure, which counts those who remain on benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid, was at its lowest level since Aug. 18, 2001.