updated 12/9/2004 9:13:42 AM ET 2004-12-09T14:13:42

New claims for jobless benefits moved higher last week, a possible sign that employers haven’t completely let go of their caution and are looking to cut costs.

Major Market Indices

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of new applications filed for unemployment insurance rose by a seasonally adjusted 8,000 to 357,000 for the week ending Dec. 4. That marked the highest level since late September.

Last week’s increase followed a sharp rise in claims — of 25,000 — in the prior week.

The newest snapshot of labor market activity was a bit disappointing to economists. They were forecasting claims to drop to around 335,000 for last week.

Higher energy bills and expensive health-care costs may be taking their toll on some companies — squeezing profits and forcing them to trim workers.

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