The number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid increased by 16,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits was 357,000 in the week ending March 23, up from the previous week's revised figure of 341,000.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which helps smooth out week-to-week volatility, edged up to 343,000, slightly higher than the previous week's five-year low of 340,750. Fewer than 375,000 claims generally indicate a sustained drop in the unemployment rate.
The advance figure for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 16 stood at 3.05 million, a drop of 27,000 from the previous week.
Economists have warned that there may be more people applying for unemployment aid in the next few months due to the roughly 85 billion U.S. dollars of government spending cuts starting on March 1. The increasing claims for jobless benefits in the past two weeks indicate that the job market still have a long way to go back to full health.
In February, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent with the private sector creating 246,000 jobs.