In a sign of continued weakness in the labor market, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing an unexpected uptick in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended September 19th.
The report said initial jobless claims inched up to 870,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised level of 866,000.
The modest increase surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to drop to 843,000 from the 860,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average fell to 878,250, a decrease of 35,250 from the previous week's revised average of 913,500.
The report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also slid by 167,000 to 12.580 million in the week ended September 12th.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also tumbled to 13,040,750, a decrease of 478,000 from the previous week's revised average of 13,518,750.
"The path of the employment recession was big layoffs in March, massive layoffs in April, rapid rehiring in May and June, slower rehiring in July and August and little improvement in September," said Chris Low, Chief Economist at FHN Financial.
Low said the ongoing decline in continuing claims suggests improvement continues but noted the "stubborn high reading in initial claims suggest there are still far too many people out of work," adding, "The economy is healing; it is by no means healed."
Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched monthly employment report for September.
Economists currently expect employment to increase by about 875,000 jobs in September after jumping by 1.371 million jobs in August. The unemployment rate is expected to edge down to 8.3 percent from 8.4 percent.