New claims for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week, but the numbers clung to a months-long decline amid a fragile recovery in the distressed job market, official data showed Thursday.
The Labor Department reported 362,000 initial jobless claims were filed in the week ending March 3.
That marked an increase of 8,000 from the prior week's upwardly revised number of 354,000.
The weekly claims numbers have fallen to 2008 lows since the middle of last year.
The four-week moving average, which helps smooth week-to-week volatility, rose by a marginal 250 claims to 355,000.
The disappointing reading on jobless claims added to signs of improvement in the labor market ahead of Friday's official unemployment and job-creation numbers.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported earlier Thursday that businesses' planned layoffs remained virtually unchanged in February.
On Wednesday, payrolls firm ADP said the nonfarm private business sector added a net 216,000 jobs in February, and pointed to "solid" job growth averaging just over 200,000 for the past five months.
Most analysts expect Friday's Labor Department data will show the economy added a net 206,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate will remain unchanged at 8.3% from December.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012