) -- The nation's
picture continued to look murky after the government said first-time applications for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week.
The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims rose by another 8,000 last week, raising the total to a seasonally adjusted 480,000. Analysts had been expecting initial claims to fall to 455,000 from a pre-revised 470,000 in the prior week, according to Briefing.com.
The four-week moving average, which tends to smooth out wild week-to-week fluctuations, also grew by 11,750 to 468,750.
The number of people continuing on jobless rolls also grew slightly to 4.602 million compared to 4.600 in the prior week.
The news comes ahead of Friday's highly anticipated jobs report from the Labor Department. Consensus forecasts hold that nonfarm payrolls should turn slightly positive in January, as employers probably added 15,000 jobs. The nation's unemployment rate likely held steady at 10%.
-- Written by Sung Moss in New York