WASHINGTON - New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose last week but the overall tightening of the labour market remained, government data released Thursday showed.
Initial jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, increased by 14,000 to 281,000 in the week ending April 4, the Labor Department said. The prior week's level was revised down slightly to 267,000.
The four-week moving average, which helps to smooth week-over-week volatility, fell by 3,000 to 282,250. A year ago the average was 320,000.
The Labor Department said there were no special factors impacting the week's numbers. Moody's Analytics analyst Ryan Sweet said that the volatility in the seasonally adjusted data over the past few weeks was likely due to the timing of the Easter holiday and school spring breaks.
"The trend continues to improve, a sign that the job market did fine late in the first quarter and early this," he said.
Claims have been trending lower as the jobs market tightened over the past year.
The disappointing March jobs report released last Friday came as a surprise after a year of job growth that averaged 287,000 positions a month.
According to the Labor Department, the economy added only 126,000 jobs in March, half of what was expected and the worst month since December 2013. The unemployment rate held unchanged at 5.5 per cent.
Economists explained some of the weakness in the March jobs report could be due to bad winter weather in some parts of the country, a strong dollar, China's economic slowdown, and the continuing effect of West Coast ports slowdowns that ended in late February.