For the second consecutive week, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a weekly increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims climbed to 234,000 in the week ended May 19th, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 223,000.
The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 220,000 from the 222,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The less volatile four-week moving average also rose to 219,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 213,500.
The four-week moving average rebounded after hitting its lowest level since December of 1969 in the previous week.
The Labor Department noted claims taking procedures in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands have still not returned to normal.
The report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also increased by 29,000 to 1.741 million in the week ended May 12th.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average of continuing claims dropped to a more than 44-year low of 1,751,750, a decrease of 23,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,775,000.
Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched monthly employment report for May.