More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but applications rose less than expected, holding at a level that signals a strong job market.
Initial claims for jobless benefits rose 11,000, to 278,000, for the week ended Jan. 31, the Labor Department said Thursday. In the previous week, shortened by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, jobless claims plunged dramatically.
Applications tend to be volatile around the holidays, and analysts had expected claims last week to climb to 285,000, according to data company FactSet.
The four-week moving average for jobless claims, which smoothes out some of the volatility in the weekly numbers, fell 6,500, to 292,750.
The labor market last year posted robust gains, causing the Federal Reserve late last month to state that the economy was growing at a “solid pace.”
A report this week from payroll firm Automatic Data Processing Inc. showed that private-sector hiring in January slowed but that job growth was still solid. The U.S. unemployment report, to be released Friday by the Labor Department, will provide further insight into the economy’s trajectory.
Economists expect the report will show the U.S. economy added 230,000 net new jobs in January, a level considered healthy, but one that would be lower than December.