WASHINGTON – The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless aid rose a sharper than expected 30,000 last week, the biggest jump in over a year, according to a government report on Thursday that could temper budding enthusiasm over a U.S. labor market revival.
First-time claims for state unemployment benefits climbed to 360,000 in the week ended April 10, their highest level since early February, from a revised 330,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said.
The increase in initial claims was the largest weekly rise since December 2002.
Wall Street economists had expected claims to rise to only 335,000 from the more than three-year low reached in the previous week.
A Labor Department analyst cautioned, however, that the first full week of April was "pretty unpredictable" and difficult to adjust for seasonal variations. Still, he said there were no special factors to explain the jump in claims.
A four-week average of initial claims, which irons out weekly volatility, moved up by 6,750 to 344,250 - a level economists would normally associate with rising levels of employment.
The department said earlier this month that U.S. employers added 308,000 workers to their payrolls in March, the biggest increase in four years.
The jump in employment came as welcome news for an economy that had been mired in a sluggish job recovery and helped fuel expectations interest rates would soon head higher.
In the claims report, the department said the overall number of people on the benefit rolls who had already received an initial week of aid dropped 22,000 last week to 2.98 million, the lowest level since July 2001.