New claims for unemployment held steady last week at 387,000 - within kissing distance of 400,000 which is generally seen as a failing labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 387,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week's figure was revised up to 389,000 from the previously reported 386,000.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 380,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, increased 3,500 to 386,250 - the highest level since early December.
The claims data covered the survey week for June's nonfarm payrolls and the report pointed to little or no improvement on the paltry 69,000 jobs added in May. Claims rose 15,000 between the May and June survey periods.
"This confirms the weak labor market we have. I suspect we would see a modest rebound in payrolls in June but it would still be below 150,000. It's going to be another month of sub-par jobs data," said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Data on Tuesday showed job openings dropped to a five-month low in April, spread across all sectors of the economy. There are no jobs for more than two out of every three unemployed Americans.
New applications for unemployment benefits have barely budged since April. A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data and only claims for New Jersey had been estimated.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid was unchanged at 3.30 million in the week ended June 9.
The number of people on extended benefits fell 24,638 to 110,864 in the week ended June 2, the latest week for which data is available, as more states lost eligibility for extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.
Only six states and the District of Columbia were offering extended benefits during that period.
Mr. Bullard's prediction of job gains of about 150,000 would be welcome news if it comes to pass. Last month, only 79,000 jobs were created and the previous month's numbers were adjusted downwards.
The loss of extended benefits means that there are more and more desperate people out there and no jobs for them to fill. No doubt we will see another big rise in those who are too discouraged to look for work - a metaphor for the Obama economy.