The U.S. Department of Labor reported that claims totaled 360,000 for the week ending April 10, the highest level since early February, from a revised 330,000 the week before. The leap was the largest since December 2002.
The closely watched four-week average of initial claims, which irons out short-term volatility, ticked up by 6,750 to 344,250. Finally, the government said the number of people forced to cling to the unemployment rolls because of difficulty finding work dropped 22,000 last week to 2.98 million, the lowest level since July 2001.
The department said earlier this month that U.S. employers added 308,000 workers to their payrolls in March, the biggest increase in four years.
Wall Street economists participating in Reuters regular survey had expected claims to rise to only 335,000 from the more than three-year low reached in the previous week.