The number of people who filed new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000 in the week ended Jan. 26, putting them at a one-month high, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to climb to 355,000. Initial claims have returned to a level that prevailed through the later stages of 2012 after touching a five-year low earlier this month.
Claims are often extremely jumpy in January after the end of the holidays and the start of a new year. Companies let go of temporary hires and some people wait until after the holidays to file claims. Initial claims from two weeks ago were unrevised at 330,000.
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, edged up by 250 to 352,000. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as a more accurate barometer of labor-market trends. Also, Labor said continuing claims increased by 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.2 million in the week ended Jan. 19.