But economists say the figures from late November and December are warped by seasonal volatility around the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that the less-volatile four-week average rose 4,250 to 348,000.
Claims had jumped 75,000 over the two weeks that ended Dec. 14 before plunging last week. The Labor Department struggles to account for seasonal hiring by retailers and other businesses and for temporary layoffs of cafeteria workers and other employees at schools that close for the holidays.
Hiring has been healthy the past four months. The economy added an average of 204,000 jobs every month from August through November, an improvement from earlier this year.