First-time claims for unemployment benefits rose by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The larger-than-expected increase followed a drop in claims the previous week, when 342,000 filed initial jobless claims.
The Labor Department's less volatile measure of jobless claims, a four-week moving average, was 360,750, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week's revised average of 352,750.
Investors will get a stronger read on the labor market on March 8, when the federal government releases its report on unemployment in February.
The U.S. unemployment rate in January was 7.9%