WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose 3,000 last week, data on Thursday showed, while so-called continued claims hit the highest level on record as the country's year-long recession continued to chill employment.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits increased to a seasonally adjusted 588,000 in the week ended Jan 24 from a revised 585,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 580,000 new claims versus a previously reported count of 589,000 the week before.
The number of people remaining on the benefits roll after drawing an initial week of aid, or continued claims, rose 159,000 to a higher-than-forecast 4.776 million in the week ended Jan 17, the most recent week for which data is available.
The Labor Department said this was the highest reading since its records on this series began in 1967. Analysts had expected continued claims to be 4.65 million.
A Labor Department official said there were no special factors impacting last week's initial claims numbers.
The four-week average of new jobless claims, a better gauge of underlying labor trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased to 542,500 from 518,250 the week before.
This measure has mounted steadily as the U.S. housing slump roils financial markets and spreads to the wider economy, forcing lay-offs as firms slash costs to offset weaker income.
Reporting by Alister Bull, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama