The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week but remained at a level consistent with modest hiring, the U.S. government reported Thursday.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims jumped 20,000 to 362,000 last week. The four-week moving average, considered a better measure of labor-market trends, rose 8,000 to 360,750, the highest in six weeks.
The increase in jobless claims puts applications back in the 360,000-to-390,000 range, where they have fluctuated since early 2012.
Job growth has accelerated, with employers adding an average of 200,000 jobs a month from November through January, up from about 150,000 in the previous three months.
However, job gains remain far less than the 250,000 per month that economists say is necessary to significantly reduce the number of unemployed workers. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 7.8 percent in January.