The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless aid rose 1,000 last week, bucking expectations for a small decline in applications, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose to 329,000 in the week ended Dec. 10 from an upwardly revised 328,000 the prior week.
Wall Street economists had expected new claims to fall to 320,000 last week from the initially reported 327,000 the previous week.
A four-week moving average of claims, which smoothes weekly volatility to provide a better picture of the job market, rose 6,000 to 328,750, the highest in five weeks.
The number of U.S. workers who remained on the unemployment rolls after claiming an initial week of aid rose 21,000 to 2.61 million in the week ended Dec. 3, the latest period for which the data are available.
A Labor Department analyst said hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma had a minimal impact on the report. There were about 1,500 new claims, unadjusted for seasonal factors, lodged last week related to Katrina and Rita, taking the cumulative total of claims related to the Gulf Coast storms to 570,500. Hurricane Wilma, which hit Florida in late October, prompted 1,000 new claims last week, for a total of 31,700.
The analyst said the Labor Department would soon stop providing a breakdown of new hurricane-related claims, since their impact had diminished.