Initial jobless claims increased 4.2% to 344,000 for the week ending April 26, according to a Labor Department report released today.

After increasing a revised 8.2% the previous week, this newest report deals another striking blow to labor market optimists. Analysts were sorely disappointed by these latest numbers, having expected initial claims to drop back to 320,000. 

Source: Author, data from Labor Department 

From a more long-term perspective, a 0.9% bump in the four-week moving average to 320,000 initial claims marks the second increase in a row. 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, nine states recorded a decrease of more than 1,000 initial claims for the week ending April 19 (most recent available data). Texas and California saw the biggest drops, down 3,120 and 2,890, respectively. 

For the same period, only New Jersey and Connecticut registered increases of more than 1,000 initial claims. Both states listed educational services layoffs as the primary push behind their claims increases. 

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