More Americans than expected filed for jobless benefits in the latest week, with at least a portion of the increase due to the effects of Tropical Storm Isaac, the government reported Thursday.
The Labor Department's data showed that unemployment claims rose by a seasonally adjusted 15,000 to 382,000.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 370,000 last week.
"Several states have reported increases in initial claims (approximately 9,000 in total) for the week ending September 8, 2012 , as a result of Tropical Storm Issac," the Labor Department said in a statement.
But even accounting for the storm, the report suggested little improvement in the labor market after job growth slowed sharply in August. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, climbed 3,250 to 375,000, the highest since the middle of July.
"I hate to react negatively to one week's data, but the labor situation in the country is ugly," said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial. Kaufman said that it becomes increasingly worrisome as claims near 400,000.
Employers added 96,000 jobs last month, a step down from July's 141,000 count. While the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent in August from 8.3 percent, it was because Americans gave up the search for work.
The sluggish labor market is seen prompting the Federal Reserve to announce a third round of bond purchases at the end of a two-day policy meeting later on Thursday.
The unemployment rate has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 49,000 to 3.28 million in the week ended September 1, the claims report showed.
Reuters contributed to this report.
CNBC's Rick Santelli reports the latest numbers on weekly unemployment and producer prices. Also, discussing the impact this data will have on the markets and what it indicates about the economy, with CNBC's Steve Liesman.
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