The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, pushing the four-week moving average of claims to its highest level in just over a year, suggesting some moderation in job growth.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 239,000 for the week ended Feb. 9, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised up to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Claims surged to a near 1-1/2-year high of 253,000 in the week ended Jan. 26. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 225,000 in the latest week.
The Labor Department said no states were estimated last week. The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 6,750 to 231,750 last week, the highest level since January 2018.
Despite the recent jump in claims, layoffs remain low amid companies struggling to find workers. The government reported on Tuesday that there were a record 7.3 million job openings in December.
The claims report showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 37,000 to 1.77 million for the week ended Feb. 2. The four-week moving average of these so-called continuing claims rose 9,000 to 1.75 million.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)