WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- The number of Americans initially applying for unemployment aid increased by 38,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits was 368,000 in the week ending Jan. 26, up 38,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 330,000. It was the highest level since Nov. 10, 2012.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which helps smooth out week-to-week volatility, rose to 352,000 from the previous week. Fewer than 375,000 claims generally indicates a sustained drop in the unemployment rate.
The advance figure for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Jan. 19 was 3.197 million, an increase of 22,000 from the prior week.
Economists attributed the increase in last week's claims data to seasonal fluctuations, as layoffs tend to shrink in early January and then rebound at the end of the month after the holiday season.
The private sector survey released Wednesday showed a steady improvement in labor market. U.S. private companies added 192,000 jobs to an 11-month high in January, according to the National Employment Report released jointly by Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and Moody's Analytics.
The Labor Department will release its January job report Friday.