WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - New US applications for unemployment benefits last week recorded their largest increase in eight months, but remained at levels consistent with a fairly healthy labour market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 276,000 for the week ended Oct 31, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the largest weekly gain since late February.
Claims had hovered near 42-year lows for much of October. The prior week's claims were unrevised. It was the 35th straight week that claims were below the 300,000 threshold, which is normally associated with a strong jobs market.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 262,000 last week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the data.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends as it strips out week-to-week volatility, rose 3,500 to 262,750 last week.
Last week's claims report has no bearing on the October employment report due for release on Friday. New applications for jobless benefits were low last month relative to September.
According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls increased 180,000 in October, well above the average gain of 139,000 jobs for August and September. The unemployment rate is forecast at 5.1 per cent.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 17,000 to 2.16 million in the week ended Oct. 24. The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell 11,500 to 2.16 million, the lowest level since November 2000.
The trend in continuing claims suggests more long-term unemployed are finding work.