The number of people filing new applications for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, but the underlying trend continued to point to some strength in the labor market, the U.S. government reported Thursday.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims increased 16,000 to 326,000 last week. The four-week moving average of claims—considered a better measure of labor-market trends because it smoothes weekly volatility—rose 250 to 319,500, signaling a steady job market.
Despite last week’s increase, jobless claims have been stable in March, supporting economist expectations of an acceleration in job growth during the month.
The government’s closely-watched employment report Friday is expected to show payrolls increased about 200,000 last month after rising 175,000 in February. The unemployment rate is expected to drop slightly to 6.6 percent.