The amount of laid-off workers applying for unemployment increased last week after having decreased in the previous week. The jump lowered expectations about how fast the economy might improve this year.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for unemployment increased by 31,000 to 473,000.
The increase followed a decrease of 41,000 in the previous week which had increased expectations that the economy could be recovering. There have been 8.4 million out of work since the recession started in December 2007.
Thursday’s news lowered experts’ predictions that claims would continue to decrease. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had predicted claims to lower slightly.
Still, the monthly mean for claims decreased 1,500 to 467,500, near the lows that were reached at the end of last year. The average is considered a more reliable indicator because it smooths out the week-to-week volatility.
Claims at the beginning of this year had been affected by a holiday backlog. The easing of the backlog had raised the amounts for the previous three weeks.
That increase appears to have been temporary.
The weekly statistics are also clouded by the propagation of last week’s blizzards.
Experts say the closing of businesses and federal offices might have prevented some newly unemployed workers from applying.
These data were collected as the administration gathered information for the February report on the unemployment rate and employer payrolls. The weather might distort those figures, too, analysts said. That could make it hard to get an accurate estimate of the economy for many weeks.
Some economists say the snowstorms may have cost the labor market as many as 100,000 jobs in February. Federal hiring for the census also could be delayed.