Weekly Jobless Claims Higher Than Expected

New claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to 424,000 last week from a revised 414,000 in the prior week, pointing to a painfully slow improvement in the nation's job markets.

The Labor Department on Thursday revised the prior week's claims number up from an originally reported 409,000. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast that claims last week would decline to 400,000, rather than rise.

The four-week moving average of unemployment claims, considered a better measure of trends since it smoothes out weekly variations, eased slightly to 438,500 from a revised 440,250.

Last week marked the seventh straight week in which claims topped the 400,000 level, indicating that payroll growth is soft and may continue to be so for some time. A department official said there were no exceptional factors to account for the rise in last week's claims.