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) -- The number of Americans filing unemployment claims unexpectedly rose last week, the Labor Department said early Thursday.

Initial jobless claims increased by 10,000 to 424,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended May 21, from an upwardly revised 414,000. Economists were expecting jobless claims to drop to 400,000 from the previous week's originally reported figure of 409,000, according to


Continuing claims for the week ended May 14 dropped 46,000 to 3.69 million from the preceding week's revised level of 3.736 million. That was slightly better than the 3.7 million economists had forecasted.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was lower at 2.9 % for the week ending May 14, a tenth lower from the prior week's unrevised rate of 3.0 percent.

The four-week moving average in initial jobless claims was 438,500, an decrease of 1,750 from the previous week's revised average of 440,250. The four-week moving average in continuing claims was 3.742 million, an increase of 7,750 from the previous week's revised average of 3.734 million.

Jobless claims have been elevated since April after dropping to a three-year low of 375,000 in February. Economists have been hoping that the claims figure trends to the 400,000 mark which would be consistent with expectations that the jobs market was on the path to recovery. However, the erratic data has once again stoked fears about the health of the employment situation.

Stock futures were mixed following the report. The

SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF


was down 0.1%, the



was up by 0.1% and the

PowerShares QQQ


was losing 0.2%.

-- Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

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