With the release of the more closely watched monthly jobs report looming, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a bigger than expected increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended March 31st.
The report said initial jobless claims climbed to 242,000, an increase of 24,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 218,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 225,000 from the 215,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The less volatile four-week moving average also rose to 228,250, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 225,250.
The Labor Department noted claims taking procedures in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands have still not returned to normal.
Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, fell by 64,000 to 1.808 million in the week ended March 24th.
With the decrease, continuing claims dropped to their lowest level since hitting 1.805 million in December of 1973.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also dipped to a 44-year low of 1,848,250, a decrease of 13,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,861,750.
On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its report on the employment situation in the month of March.
Employment is expected to increase by 198,000 jobs in March after spiking by 313,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate is expected to dip to 4.0 percent from 4.1 percent.