The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week, government data showed on Thursday, pushed up by auto plant shutdowns related to Chrysler's bankruptcy.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits increased 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 637,000 in the week ended May 9, reversing an easing trend of the previous two weeks.
A Labor Department official said a good part of the increase is due to automotive states and claims.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast new claims rising to 610,000.
The number of people staying on the benefit rolls after collecting an initial week of aid jumped 202,000 to a record high of 6.56 million in the week ended May 2, the latest week for which the data is available, from 6.36 million the previous week.
This was the 15th straight week that so-called continued claims touched a record high and lifted the insured unemployment rate to 4.9 percent, the highest since December 1982, from 4.8 percent the previous week.
The four-week moving average for new claims, considered to be a better gauge of underlying trends as it smoothes out week-to-week volatility, rose 6,000 to 630,500 in the week ending May 9, from 624,500. This measure had declined for four straight weeks.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)