U.S. jobless claims touch 9-mth high

WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-month high last week, government data showed on Thursday, yet another setback to the frail economic recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 500,000 in the week ended August 14, the highest since mid-November, the Labor Department said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 476,000 from the previously reported 484,000 the prior week, which was revised up to 488,000 in Thursday’s report.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state level data. The data covered the survey week for the government’s closely watched employment report for August, scheduled for release early next month.

The four-week average of new jobless claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 8,000 to 482,500, the highest since early December.

Claims for unemployment benefits have been stuck at lofty levels for much of this year, which many economists say points to unemployment staying uncomfortably high for some time.

The number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 13,000 to 4.48 million in the week ended August 7 from an upwardly revised 4.49 million the prior week. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast so-called continuing claims rising to 4.50 million from a previously reported 4.45 million.

The insured unemployment rate, which measures the percentage of the insured labor force that is jobless, was unchanged at 3.5 percent during that period.

The number of people on emergency benefits increased 260,105 to 4.75 million in the week ended July 31. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)