Washington: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose sharply last week, a potential signal the job market was losing steam although some of the increase might be attributed to temporary holiday factors.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 for the week ended December 26, the US Labor Department said on Thursday.
That was the highest since July, although in recent months the weekly readings for claims have held near a 42-year low.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 270,000 in the latest week.
Futures for US stock prices were largely unchanged following the report.
The US labour market heated up in 2015, enough for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates on December 16 for the first time in a decade, a milestone in the US recovery from the 2007-09 recession.
Many economists expect a slower pace of job market improvement in 2016 even as the unemployment rate falls further from its current 5 per cent. After dropping sharply for years, jobless claims have appeared to stabilise since the middle of 2015.
Last week's data may have been distorted by the holiday period, although the Labor Department said there were no special factors influencing the numbers. The four-week moving average, which analysts follow closely because it smoothes out volatility, rose 4,500 to 277,000.
Still, claims have been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a buoyant labor market, for 43 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since the early 1970s.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 3,000 to 2.20 million in the week ended December 19.
© Thomson Reuters 2015