New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits unexpectedly rose last week, largely due to Easter holiday-related factors, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Initial jobless claims totaled a seasonally adjusted 484,000 in the week ending April 10, the highest level since late February, the department reported.
That marked an increase of 24,000 from the prior week's unrevised figure of 460,000 and surprised most analysts who had forecast new claims would fall by 440,000.
In the previous week ending April 3, claims had increased sharply, to 460,000 from 442,000 the prior week.
The Labor Department said the latest increase was due to seasonal factors.
"Volatility is always associated with the Easter holiday," a department official said.
"This is more attributable to administrative factors than to possible layoffs. I did not see anything in the states' numbers that would reflect economic concerns," he said.
The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, which helps to smooth volatility, was 457,750 last week, about the same as in mid-March.
The number reflected a rise of 7,500 claims from the previous week's unrevised average of 450,250.
For the week ending April 3, the unemployment rate edged up to 3.6 percent from 3.5 percent. The number of all people receiving unemployment benefits rose by 73,000 to 4,639,000.
But the four-week moving average for all claims fell by 13,750, to 4,638,500.
"On an underlying basis, the trend in claims continues to suggest an improvement in the labor market, and we expect significant job growth to continue in April," Peter Newland at Barclays Capital said.
Despite the US economic recovery from recession, which began in mid-2009, and the recent creation of jobs, both the government and the Federal Reserve are predicting a slow, incremental decrease in unemployment this year.
The jobless rate held steady at 9.7 percent for the third consecutive month in March, a level last seen in the early 1980s.