WASHINGTON -- First-time jobless claims rose to 372,000 last week, a level consistent with a moderately growing labor market ahead of Friday's December unemployment report.
The number of initial claims for unemployment benefits was up 10,000 in the week ending Saturday from the previous week's revised total, the Labor Department said Thursday. The number of claims was higher than economists' projections of about 360,000.
The already volatile weekly numbers become even more so during the holidays, when government office closures force the Labor Department to estimate data from some states.
The figure for the week ending Dec. 15 was revised up to 362,000 from the 350,000 originally reported, which had been close to a 4 1/2-year low.
The less-volatile four-week average was 360,000, an increase of 250.
Thursday's figures were consistent with moderate job growth and came as private payroll firm Automatic Data Processing reported that hiring accelerated in December.
The firm's closely watched survey said the private sector added 215,000 jobs last month, an increase from November's revised figure of 148,000. The Labor Department figure for private and public sector job growth in November was 147,000.
Government figures for December will be released Friday. Analysts have projected the report would show 150,000 new jobs were added to the economy, though the ADP survey suggests that could be higher.
Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York, said the new data mean his estimate of 150,000 net new jobs in December might turn out to be low.
"Net net, the employment data are firm to stronger despite the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff at year end," he said. "