According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), first-time claims totaled 350,000 in the week ending February 21, up 6,000 from an unrevised 344,000 the prior week.
Meanwhile, the closely watched four-week moving average, widely followed because it irons out short-term volatility, rose to 354,750 from 352,000 the prior week. The rise was the fourth consecutive weekly gain for the average and the highest since December 27, 2003.
In a positive sign, the number of people forced to cling to the unemployment rolls because of difficulty in finding work, dropped 62,000 to 3.1 million in the week ended February 14.
Wall Street economists participating in Reuters weekly survey had expected February 21 claims to tick higher to 348,000.
A more comprehensive job market report should be forthcoming March 5 with DoL’s February employment situation report. A preliminary Reuters survey found economists are expecting the report to show a 125,000 rise in non-farm payrolls after the 112,000 gain in January.
The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 5.6%