The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose to its highest level in over 26 years last week and so-called continued claims jumped to a record high in March, according to data that underscored the labor market deterioration.
The Labor Department said on Thursday initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 669,000 in the week ended March 28, the highest since the week ending October 2, 1982, from an upwardly revised 657,000 the week before.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 650,000 new claims versus a previously reported count of 652,000 the prior week.
The number of people staying on the benefits roll after collecting an initial week of aid surged 161,000 to 5.73 million in the week ended March 21, the latest week for which the data is available, from 5.57 million the previous week.
This was the highest on record and lifted the insured unemployment rate to 4.3 percent, the highest since a matching 4.3 percent in the week ending May 21, 1983. The insured unemployment rate was at 4.2 percent in the week ended March 14.
The four-week moving average for new claims, considered to be a better gauge of underlying trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, climbed 6,500 to 656,750 in the week ending March 28, from 650,250. That was the highest reading since October 1982.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Editing by Andrea Ricci)