The number of U.S. workers drawing state unemployment benefits scaled another record high early this month, government data showed on Thursday, highlighting the difficulties of getting new jobs as the economy battles a severe recession.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 652,000 new claims.

The number of people staying on the benefits roll after drawing an initial week of aid surged 185,000 to 5.47 million in the week ended March 7, the latest week for which the data is available, from 5.29 million the previous week. This was the highest on record and pushed the insured unemployment rate to 4.1 percent from 3.9 percent the week before, the highest since June 1983.

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, rose to 654,750, the highest since October 1982, from 651,000 in the week ended March 7.

The Labor Department will next week publish revisions for the series from 2004 to 2008 for both initial and continued claims.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Editing by Andrea Ricci)