Initial jobless claims increased 1.6% (5,000 claims) to 320,000 for the week ending March 15, according to a Labor Department report released today .
After dropping 2.8% the previous week to a three-month low, analysts were pleasantly surprised, having expected claims to push back up to 325,000.
From a more long-term perspective, a 1.1% drop in the four-week moving average to 327,000 initial claims continues to point to labor market improvements. This is the third consecutive cut for the four-week moving average. Both the latest week's claims and the four-week average fall significantly below 400,000, a threshold point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.
On a state-by-state basis, New York, Michigan, California, and Connecticut recorded decreases of more than 1,000 initial claims for the week ending March 8 (most recent available data). New York was by far the leader, with fewer transportation and warehousing layoffs contributing to a 17,550-initial-claim drop.
For the same period, only Pennsylvania registered an increase of more than 1,000 initial claims. Food service job cuts, as well as administrative and support layoffs, contributed to a 1,960-initial-claim increase.
About 3.35 million people received unemployment benefits as of March 1, the latest figures available. That's about 101,000 fewer than the previous week.
-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.