The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose sharply last week, reversing the prior three weeks declines, but a recent strengthening of the labor market likely remains intact.
In a separate report, U.S. retail sales rose solidly in November as Americans bought automobiles and a range of other goods, adding to signs of a strengthening economy that could draw the Federal Reserve closer to reducing the pace of monetary stimulus.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits surged 68,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was the largest weekly increase since November 2012. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to rise to 320,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 6,000 to 328,750.