Weekly Jobless Claims Rise Unexpectedly

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless compensation rose unexpectedly last week to its highest level in a month, a government report showed Thursday.

Initial claims for jobless benefits rose for the third straight week, climbing to 340,000 in the week ended May 7 from an upwardly revised 336,000 for the previous week and to its highest since April 2, the Labor Department (search) said.

Economists had expected claims to fall to 325,000 from the 333,000 the government originally reported in the week ended April 30.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors behind the rise.

The closely watched four-week moving average, which irons out fluctuations in the weekly volatility to provide a clearer picture of job-market trends, rose 2,000 to 324,000.

The number of people remaining on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid rose for the second consecutive week, rising 15,000 to 2.60 million in the week ended April 30, the latest week for which data are available.

However, the four-week average of these so-called continued claims moved down for the fourth straight week, falling to 2.59 million, the lowest level since March 31, 2001, just as the U.S. economy was tumbling into recession.