Initial jobless claims jumped 5.2% to 326,000 for the week ending March 29, according to a Labor Department report released today.

After falling a revised 3.4% the previous week, this newest report exceeded analysts' expectations by 6,000 claims. 

Source: author; data from Labor Department. 

From a more long-term perspective, a slight 0.1% bump in the four-week moving average to 319,500 initial claims points to a steadier labor market than the latest weekly number would suggest. Both the latest week's claims and the four-week average fall significantly below 400,000, a cutoff point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.

On a state-by-state basis, only California and Nebraska recorded a decrease of more than 1,000 initial claims for the week ending March 22 (most recent available data). California's initial claims dropped 8,730 due primarily to fewer services sector layoffs, while Nebraska provided no comment for its 1,120 dip. 

For the same period, Texas and Florida registered increases of more than 1,000 initial claims. Educational service layoffs helped contribute to a 2,420 increase in new Lone Star State jobless claims, while the Sunshine State pointed to agriculture and construction layoffs as the main impetus for its 1,700 increase.