The number of American workers filing first-time claims for jobless benefits shot up unexpectedly by 22,000 last week to the highest level since last summer, suggesting a moderating labor market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that new applications for unemployment insurance totaled a seasonally adjusted 366,000, up from a revised 344,000 during the week ended Dec. 21, when claims fell by 6,000.It was the highest level of new claims since they totaled 367,000 during the week ended July 13. The jump was the steepest since claims shot up by 23,000 during the week ended Oct. 26.
And the 344,000 level of Dec. 21 was even higher than the 335,000 estimate reported last week.
After dipping to 5.1 percent in August, the unemployment rate grew to 5.4 percent in November, highest since an identical rate last July.
Many analysts had expected a slight increase last week despite fewer days in which to file because of the Christmas holiday.
The four-week moving average of new weekly jobless claims rose by 9,000 to 352,500, highest since 360,500 July 13.
Many analysts prefer to track the less-volatile four-week average because it smooths out the spikes in the weekly reports.
During the week ended Dec. 21, 38 states and territories reported increases, 13 registered declines and two were unchanged. The state data are reported a week later than the national totals.
States with the largest increases were Virginia, 6,661; Kentucky, 5,201; Texas 4,108; Illinois, 4,030; and Missouri, 3,341.
The biggest decreases were in California, 10,680; North Carolina, 7,003; Georgia, 3,064; South Carolina, 2,649; and Alabama, 1,544.