WASHINGTON – New claims for U.S. jobless aid unexpectedly rose by 5,000 last week, Labor Department data showed on Thursday, but remained at levels suggesting moderate jobs growth.
First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits advanced to 322,000 in the week ended April 29, the highest week of initial claims since a matching level in the week of November 19, and compared with an upwardly revised 317,000 the prior week.
Wall Street analysts polled by Reuters had expected new claims to fall to 310,000 last week from an initially reported 315,000 the previous week.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's report. However, he noted that the timing of the Easter school spring break in different jurisdictions had brought some volatility to April data.
The four-week moving average of new claims, which smooths volatile weekly data to provide a better picture of underlying labor market trends, advanced 5,250 last week to 314,250.
The number of people who continued to collect jobless benefits after drawing an initial week of aid increased 21,000 to 2.462 million in the week ended April 22, the latest for which figures are available. The rise compared with a forecast for 2.440 million continued claims.
Financial markets are looking closely at the claims data for signs of labor market tightness, which the Federal Reserve is monitoring as it ponders whether to pause a 22- month rate hike campaign at its next meeting, on May 10.
The claims numbers were gathered too late in the month to influence April's overall employment report, due on May 5. A Reuters' poll of analysts forecast 200,000 new jobs were created in April, compared with 211,000 in March, with the rate of unemployment expected to remain steady at 4.7 percent.