The number of first time benefit filers went up and last week's numbers were revised upwards.
It's ... it's...WORSE THAN EXPECTED!
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's data was revised to show 8,000 more applications received than previously reported.
The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, rose 5,500 to 374,750.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 370,000 last week.
"The number suggests that improvement is slowing down," said Subodh Kumar, chief investment strategist at Subodh Kumar & Associates in Toronto.
Stock index futures pared gains on the report, while Treasury debt prices rose and the dollar pared gains against the yen.
The claims data covered the week for April's nonfarm payrolls survey. The four-week average of new applications rose marginally between the March and April survey periods, suggesting not much change in labor market conditions.
Employers added 120,000 new jobs to their payrolls in March, the least since October, after averaging 246,000 jobs per month over the prior three months.
Most economists have viewed the pull-back in job growth as payback after the weather-induced gains in the previous months.
"Some of the improvement in labor market earlier this year was probably due to the unseasonably mild weather," said Jeremy Lawson, a senior economist at BNP Paribas in New York. "This data is consistent with the softer payrolls number in March."
A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data.
More good news: sales of existing homes fell 2.6% in March, although prices inched higher. At this rate, it will take 5 years to get rid of the excess units caused by the housing glut. Don't look for much of a recovery until then.