First-time claims for US unemployment benefits rose last week but the overall trend continued to point to an improving jobs market, government data showed Thursday.
Initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, totaled 326,000 in the week ending March 29, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 310,000, the Labor Department said. The initial estimate for the prior week was 311,000.
Analysts on average expected a more modest rise in claims last week to 320,000.
The four-week moving average was virtually unchanged, inching up by 250 to 319,500 claims. A year ago, the average stood at 352,500 claims.
The jobless data came ahead of Friday's March jobs report.
Analysts on average estimate the world's largest economy added 195,000 jobs last month in both the public and private sectors, after 175,000 in February.
The unemployment rate is expected to tick downward to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent.