A significant proportion of the 42,000 rise is attributed to the annual auto plant shutdowns, which occur when manufacturers gear up for the production of 2002 models of cars and trucks, according to the Department of Labor.
The reading was higher than the slight increase generally expected by economists.
Initial claims have not been this high since the week ending July 25, 1992 when the economy, trying to pull out of recession, saw jobless claims at 539,000.
The more stable four-week moving average, a better indicator of economic health because it smoothes out weekly volatility, rose to 410,750 last week from the previous week’s 408,250 level.
The number for continuous claims also reached a record level, increasing to 3,046,00, its highest level since October 1992, in the week ending June 30, the latest week for which data is available.