Australian unemployment rate
More Americans than expected applied for unemployment benefits last week. Reuters

The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits rose sharply in the last week, the Labor Dept. said Thursday, erasing a sharp decline in the prior week as seasonal adjustments continue to distort the data.

In the week ending Saturday, applications for unemployment insurance payments jumped 46,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000. The prior week's figure was revised upward to show 3,000 more applications than previously reported. Economists expected claims to rise to 365,000 from an initially reported 339,000.

The four-week moving average for new claims, a well-regarded measure of labor market trends, rose to 365,500 from 364,750.

The government adjusts its readings for claims to take into account regular seasonal swings. The beginning of the quarter often contains volatility in the unadjusted claims data as many applicants reapply for benefits recertification.

Last week included the 12th of the month, which coincides with the period the Labor Department uses in its survey of employers to calculate monthly payroll growth. October jobs report will be released on Nov. 2, four days before the presidential election.