WASHINGTON --The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance benefits jumped to a nearly six-month high last week during the Christmas holiday season, the Labor Department reported Dec. 31.
Initial jobless claims rose by 20,000 to 287,000 in the week ending December 26. That marked the highest level of new claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, since the first week of July.
But claims overall have held below 300,000 since early March amid moderate economic growth and steady job creation that pushed the unemployment rate to 5% in November, a seven-year low.
The four-week moving average, which helps to smooth weekly volatility, rose by 4,500 to 277,000 last week. A year ago it was 287,750.
The Labor Department said there were no special factors impacting the data.
"Despite the modest rise in initial claims towards year-end, both initial and continuing jobless claims improved considerably in 2015 and both series remain at or near their lowest levels since the early 1970s," said Rob Martin at Barclays Research.
"These data indicate that, at least from the separations side, the labor market remained strong to the very end of the year."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015