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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Jobless claims spiked last week, according to the latest numbers released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

Applications for unemployment benefits totaled 454,000 for the week, an increase of 51,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 403,000. This is the highest level claims have reached since October last year.

Additionally, the four-week moving average, considered a more telling measure, increased by 15,750, rising from 413,000 to 428,750 new unemployment claims.

The spike follows several weeks of more positive figures: On Jan. 1, the four-week moving average hit a two-year low of 411,250, following a week in December where claims actually dipped below 400,000.

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However, the spike may not necessarily indicate renewed troubles in the job market. Labor Department officials attributed the increase to inclement weather in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, which caused many companies to shut down temporarily and prevented people from applying for benefits the week before the latest statistics were obtained.

As we have reported, jobless claims typically need to be below 400,000 to indicate a recovery in the job market. Claims of 375,000 or below are needed to show a positive impact on the unemployment rate.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week was 9,410,977. According to the Labor Department, the insured unemployment rate during the week ending Jan. 15 was 3.2%, an increase of 0.1 percentage points from the prior week's unrevised rate of 3.1%.

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