The number of application filed by Americans for making new claims for jobless benefits surged unexpectedly last week, while the nonfarm productivity contracted even more sharply than earlier thought during the fourth quarter.
The US Labor Department report, released on Thursday, showed that the initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 320,000 for the week that ended February 28.
Several economists had expected unemployment claims to decline to 295,000 last week.
In its another report, the labor department said that its productivity dropped at a 2.2 percent rate annually in the fourth quarter instead of the 1.8 percent pace it had posted in February.
While the Labor Department cited no special factors behind the data for jobless claims, several economists blamed harsh winters in February as well as a strike called by petroleum refinery workers for the dip.
The jobless data for the week that ended February 21 showed a large number of layoffs in Kentucky due to the bad weather.
Jim O’Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York, said, “We suspect the pattern reflects the weather rather than fundamental deterioration. That said, we will, of course, be on watch for the possibility that the rise in the last two weeks marks a change in the trend.”
The four-week moving average of unemployment claims, which is considered as a better measure of the trends of labor market as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 10,250 to 304,750 last week.
The country’s nonfarm payrolls are likely to have rose 240,000 in February after surging by 257,000 in January, according to a survey of economists.
The economy added over a million jobs between November and January, a feat which was last seen in 1997.