WASHINGTON -- Reversing a recent downward trend, new jobless claims jumped by 38,000 last week but remained in the ballpark for moderate growth in the labor market ahead of Friday's unemployment report.
The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first-time increased to 368,000 in the week ending Saturday, up from the previous week's level of 330,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That figure was the lowest in five years.
Economists had speculated the sharp drop earlier in January could have been related to the difficulties of making seasonal adjustments after the holidays and at the start of a new year. Last week's increase could be offsetting overstated decreases.
The more stable four-week average was 352,000 claims, a slight increase from the previous week.
That level is consistent with moderate job growth, which is what economists expect Friday's January unemployment report will show.
Forecasters predict that the economy added about 165,000 jobs in January, an improvement over December's 155,000. The unemployment rate is projected to stay at 7.8%.