The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but the underlying trend continued to point to a strengthening labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000 for the week ended Feb. 27, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's claims were unrevised.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 271,000 in the latest week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data and only claims for Oklahoma had been estimated.
Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with healthy labor market conditions, for 52 straight weeks. That is the longest period since the early 1970s.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 1,750 to 270,250 last week, the lowest level since late November.