New claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week, boosting concerns that the job market recovery was stalling.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that seasonally-adjusted initial jobless claims rose by 13,000 to 380,000 in the week ended April 7. It was their highest level since January.
The four-week moving average, considered a more accurate gauge of job market trends, gained 4,250 to 368,500.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims falling to 355,000 last week.
Some economists brushed off the data, however, saying that seasonal factors were behind the increase and that they expect jobless claims to drift lower in coming weeks.
"The blip in claims is due to Easter. It came in well above expectations. We had an earlier Easter this year. I expect it to come down next week," John Canally, investment strategist at LPL Financial, told Reuters.
The claims data come in the wake of Friday's disappointing employment report for March, which showed the economy created 120,000 new jobs, the smallest amount since October.
Despite the rise in claims last week, both first-time applications for unemployment aid and the four-week average held below the 400,000 mark, implying job gains above March's tally.
A Labor Department official said there was nothing unexpected in the state-level data.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 98,000 to 3.25 million in the week ended March 31, possibly as many exhausted their benefits. That was th lowest since July 2008.
The unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of 8.2 percent in March, mostly as people gave up the search for work.
The number of Americans on emergency unemployment benefits fell 20,555 to 2.79 million in the week ended March 24, the latest week for which data is available.
A total of 6.95 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs, down 97,833 from the prior week.
Reuters contributed to this report.