New claims for jobless benefits soared last week, a worrisome sign for the slowly recovering labor market.
Separately, an index of leading economic indicators fell in April, pulled down by a sharp decline in building permits.
The number of workers who filed new claims for unemployment insurance climbed by 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 471,000 for the week ended May 15, the Labor Department said Thursday.
"We are left with the uncomfortable possibility that the trend in claims has not only stopped falling, but may be turning higher," Ian Shepherdson, a High Frequency Economics Ltd. economist, said in a note to clients.
A labor department economist said Thursday that, unlike early April, when jobless claims surged due to seasonal and holiday factors, this time there was no indication that any special factors were at work. Last week's jump in claims reversed most of the declines since April 10, when claims were at 480,000.
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