The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the most since late March. The jump comes after applications fell to a five-year low.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose just 1,250 to 339,250, a level consistent with modest hiring.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. The big increase could mean companies are cutting more jobs, possibly because of steep government spending cuts that kicked in March 1. Labor officials said there were no special circumstances that caused the spike.
Applications tend to fluctuate sharply from week to week and economists typically focus more on the four-week average. That remains 9 percent lower than it was six months ago.