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The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week likely as Hurricane Florence temporarily displaced some workers, but the underlying trend continued to point to a tightening labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 214,000 for the week ended Sept. 22, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Claims fell to 202,000 during the week ended Sept. 15, which was the lowest level since November 1969.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 210,000 in the latest week. Hurricane Florence lashed parts of the South last week, causing flooding and sending people into emergency shelters.
The Labor Department reported an increase in unadjusted claims for South and North Carolina last week. The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose only 250 to 206,250 last week.
The labor market is viewed as being near or at full employment. It continues to strengthen, with nonfarm payrolls increasing by 201,000 jobs in August and annual wage growth notching its biggest gain in more than nine years. Job openings hit an all-time high of 6.9 million in July.
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday for the third time this year, describing the labor market as having "continued to strengthen" and job gains as having "been strong, on average."
Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 16,000 to 1.66 million for the week ended Sept. 15. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims fell 12,250 to 1.68 million, the lowest level since November 1973.
The continuing claims data covered the week of the household survey from which September's unemployment rate will be derived. The four-week average of continuing claims fell between the August and September survey periods, suggesting some improvement in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate was at 3.9 percent in August.