msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/8/2011 9:01:18 AM ET 2011-09-08T13:01:18

More people sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign that jobs are hard to come by amid uncertainty about the economy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 414,000.

The news comes hours ahead of a highly anticipated speech from President Barack Obama before Congress on Thursday in which he's expected to lay out a plan to boost jobs growth.

U.S. employment growth ground to a halt in August, with zero net job creation raising fears of a new recession and putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to ease monetary policy further at its meeting later this month.

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Analysts had forecast that weekly applications dropped 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 405,000 for the week ended Sept. 3. That would be the second straight drop.

Story: Wall Street wants Obama to come out swinging on jobs

Excluding one week in early August, claims have held above 400,000 since early April. The Labor Department said there was no discernible effect from recent hurricanes and storms on the national figures this week.

The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out volatility, rose to 414,750 from 411,000 the prior week.

"Claims above 400k is consistent with a struggling jobs market," said Omar Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange.

Continuing claims eased to 3.72 million from 3.75 million. The number of total recipients on benefit rolls was 7.17 million.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: More people seeking unemployment benefits

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