[WASHINGTON] The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment rose more than expected last week, but the underlying trend remained consistent with a strengthening labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000 for the week ended Feb 7, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
The prior week's data was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 285,000 last week.
A Labor Department analyst said the department had estimated claims for Massachusetts because of a snowstorm that had closed offices in the state. While Massachusetts later submitted claims data, the figures were not very different from the department's estimate.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 3,250 to 289,750 last week.
Difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal fluctuations caused volatility in claims towards the end of 2014 and early this year. The data, however, continued to point to strengthening labor market conditions.
The economy has added more than a million jobs over the past three months, an achievement last seen in 1997. A key measure of labor market slack - the number of job seekers for every open position - hit its lowest level since 2007 in December.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 51,000 to 2.35 million in the week ended Jan 31.