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The number of Americans filing applications for jobless benefits increased to a six-month high last week, which could raise concerns that the labor market could be slowing.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 for the week ended Nov. 24, the highest level since the mid-May, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims have now risen for three straight weeks.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 220,000 in the latest week.
The claims data included Thanksgiving Day on Thursday. Claims tend to be volatile around holidays. The Labor Department said no states were estimated 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 4,750 to 223,250 last week.
The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 50,000 to 1.71 million for the week ended Nov. 17. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 19,750 to 1.68 million.
The continuing claims data covered the week during which households were surveyed for November's unemployment rate. The four-week average of claims increased 20,750 between the October and November survey weeks, suggesting little change in the unemployment rate.
The jobless rate is at a near 49-year low of 3.7 percent. The labor market is viewed as being near or at full employment.