Initial jobless claims increased 4.7% to a seasonally adjusted 357,000 for the week ending March 23, according to a Labor Department report released today. Market analysts had expected a slight week-to-week drop to 340,000 claims.

Following on the heels of a revised 2.1% bump the previous week, this newest report proved large enough to reverse the four-week moving average's month-long downward trend. It rose 0.7% for the week ending March 23.


Despite the increases, both the most recent week's number and the moving average clocked in solidly below 400,000, a cutoff point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.

On a state-by-state basis, seven states recorded decreases of more than 1,000 in their initial jobless claims for the week ending March 16 (most recent available data). Pennsylvania (-2,500), New York (-2,120), and Georgia (-2,020) led the dip, citing fewer layoffs in a variety of sectors including construction, entertainment, professional, and manufacturing. Only two states recorded increases of more than 1,000. California's new claims clocked in up 3,000 due primarily to layoffs in the service industry, while Virginia added on 1,160 as a result of manufacturing layoffs.