Initial jobless claims jumped last week from a 15-year-low amid renewed concerns about job growth, but remained below the 300,000 level that indicates a healthy labor market
There were 281,000 people who applied for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended Saturday, the Labor Department said Thursday.
That was an increase of 14,000 from the previous week's 267,000, which was revised down by 1,000 from the initial estimate.
The new figure matched the post-Great Recession low and represented the fewest claims since 2000.
Economists had expected claims to increase to about 285,000.
The figures can vary widely from week to week. The less volatile four-week average dropped by 3,000 to 282,250, the lowest since April 2000.
Claims below 300,000 indicate a healthy labor market, economists say. For the most part, the figure has been running below that level since fall.
But the recent data are at odds with the government's latest jobs report as economic growth appeared to have slowed significantly in the first three months of the year.
Job growth disappointed in March, with the economy adding just 126,000 net new jobs, the Labor Department said last week.
Federal Reserve policymakers are watching the labor market closely as they decide when to start raising their benchmark short-term interest rate for the first time since 2006.
Minutes of the Fed's March policymaking meeting, released Wednesday, showed members were divided on whether to start raising the rate in June from the nearly 0% level it has been at since late 2008.
Follow @JimPuzzanghera on Twitter