New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, bouncing back above the key 400,000 level, a government report showed on Thursday.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 412,000, the Labor Department said.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 380,000. The prior week's figure was revised up to 385,000 from the previously reported 382,000.
The four-week moving average of unemployment claims -- a better measure of underlying trends - climbed 5,500 to 395,750.
The rise in claims interrupted a downward trend that had kept them below the 400,000 threshold for four weeks. That level is normally associated with steady job growth. Despite last week's rise, the four-week average held below the 400,000 mark for a seventh straight week.
A Labor Department official said claims tend to rise the first week of a new quarter.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 58,000 to 3.68 million in the week ended April 2, the lowest level since September 2008. Economists had expected so-called continuing claims to ease to 3.70 million from a previously reported 3.72 million.
The number of people on emergency unemployment benefits fell 12,245 to 3.55 million in the week ended March 26, the latest week for which data is available. A total of 8.52 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs.