WASHINGTON -- New jobless claims increased slightly again last week, though remained consistent with moderate job growth in another indication of the slow recovery in the labor market.
The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday rose to 371,000 from a revised 367,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the fourth straight weekly increase.
The rise surprised analysts, who had expected jobless claims to drop to about 365,000.
The less-volatile four-week average increased to 365,750 from 359,000 the previous week.
Economists said that level of claims indicates the economy still is adding about 150,000 jobs a month, roughly the average monthly pace for the last two years.
The Labor Department reported last week that the economy added 155,000 net new jobs in January and the unemployment rate remained at 7.8%.
Weekly jobless claims have been on a roller coaster rise since the fall. Superstorm Sandy caused them to spike to 451,000 in mid-November. They then started dropping and nearly matched a 4-1/2-year low of 344,000 in early December before beginning to rise again.