The number of U.S. workers continuing to claim jobless benefits notched a fresh record in the second week of February, Labor Department data showed on Thursday, while new claims for aid were the highest since 1982.
The number of people remaining on the benefits roll after drawing an initial week of assistance increased by 114,000 to a 5.112 million in the week ended February 14, the most recent week for which data is available. The so-called continued claims topped every estimate in a Reuters poll of 15 economists, which had a consensus forecast of 5.00 million.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits increased to a seasonally adjusted 667,000 in the week ended February 21 from a revised 631,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said. It was the highest reading since October 1982, when claims reached 695,000.
The year-long U.S. recession has savaged the labor market and sent the unemployment rate soaring, with some economists fearing it will pierce 9 percent in 2009 from 7.6 percent in January and mount further next year.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 625,000 new claims versus a previously reported count of 627,000 the week before.
A Labor Department official said there were no special factors impacting the numbers.
The four-week average of new jobless claims, a better gauge of underlying labor trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased to 639,000 from 620,000 the week before. This was also the highest reading since October 1982, when the four-week average was 641,750.
(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Tom Hals)