The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped from a six-month high last week, but remained elevated as California continued to deal with a backlog related to computer problems.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000, the Labor Department said today.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 335,000 last week.
A Labor Department analyst said claims in California, which has experienced technical problems during a conversion to a new computer system, remained at similar levels as in the previous week.
There had not been a perceptible increase in filings last week from non-federal workers laid off because of the just-ended government shutdown, the analyst said.
The two and a half week partial shutdown of the federal government ended last night after the US Congress passed an 11th hour deal to temporarily fund the government up to the middle of January and to raise the country's borrowing authority until February 7.
During the week ended October. 5, the first week of the shutdown, there were 70,068 claims from laid off federal workers. Claims for federal workers are reported separately and with a one-week lag.
Though claims rose last week, the underlying trend remains consistent with a gradually healing labour market. The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 11,750 to 336,500.
Last week's claims data covered the survey period for October's non-farm payrolls count. But without payrolls data for September, which was delayed because of the shutdown, it is difficult to clearly check the pulse of the labour market.
Today's claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programmes after an initial week of aid fell 43,000 to 2.86 million in the week ended October 5.