The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits climbed last week at the fastest pace in six months, a worrisome sign for the economy which has been hit by government austerity.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits jumped by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was the biggest jump since November and confounded analysts’ expectations for a more modest increase.
Claims for the prior week were revised to show 5,000 more applications received than previously reported.
A Labor Department analyst said no states had estimated their data, and that there were no signs furloughs for government employees played a significant role in last week’s increase in claims.
The U.S. economy has shown signs that growth slowed late in the first quarter and in April as an austerity drive by the federal government weighed on consumers and businesses. Washington hiked taxes in January and initiated sweeping budget cuts in March.
Data on jobless claims has been a relative bright spot in the U.S. labor market, and analysts will be cautious over reading too deeply into one week of dour data, which showed claims at their highest since late March.