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Jobless claims data offer no solace for recovery worries

Slightly fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the latest week, but a more accurate gauge of labor market trends -- the four-week moving average -- deteriorated, raising further worries about the recovery.

The Labor Department reported that seasonally adjusted jobless claims slipped by 1,000 to 388,000 in the week ended April 21. The four-week moving average, however, rose by 6,250 to 381,750.

Both claims' gauges remain below 400,000, at least for now, but have been edging closer to a number that economists believe is a crucial signpost for the health of the job market.

"This was a disappointing number and offers more evidence that the labor market continues to lose traction," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst with Western Union Business Solutions.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new claims falling to 375,000 last week.

The reading was the latest example of fizzling momentum in the labor market recovery. New claims fell sharply during early winter but the improvement has largely stalled in recent weeks.

Employers added 120,000 new jobs to their payrolls in March, the least since October, after averaging 246,000 jobs per month over the prior three months.

Many economists believe a mild winter boosted payrolls growth earlier in the year and view recent stagnation as payback for those gains.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data in the claims report.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid rose 3,000 to 3.315 million in the week ended April 14.

The number of Americans on emergency unemployment benefits fell 45,930 to 2.73 million in the week ended April 7, the latest week for which data is available.

A total of 6.68 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs, down 87,160 from the prior week

Reuters contributed to this report.