WASHINGTON The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but that probably does not signal a material shift in labor market conditions as claims remain near their pre-recession levels.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 315,000 for the week ended Sept. 6, the highest level since late June, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 300,000 last week.
The period included the Labor Day holiday and claims tend to be volatile around holidays. A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the state level data.
The four-week average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, edged up 750 to 304,000, not far from pre-recession levels and consistent with strengthening labor market conditions.
Atlantic City casino closings could bump up claims in the coming weeks.
U.S. Treasury debt prices held their modest gains, while the dollar and U.S. stock index futures were little moved by the data.
Job growth braked sharply in August, with employers adding only 142,000 jobs to their payrolls - snapping six consecutive months of job increases above 200,000.
Economists, however, cautioned against reading too much into the weakness, noting that payroll gains tend to be smaller in August because of difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal fluctuations in hiring.
In addition, other labor market indicators, including manufacturing and services sectors surveys have pointed to relatively strong job gains.
The jobless claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 9,000 to 2.49 million in the week ended Aug. 30, also not straying too far from pre-recession levels.
The unemployment rate for people receiving unemployment benefits held at 1.9 percent for the ninth straight week.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)