Washington, D.C. Unemployment benefit rolls swelled to a 26-year high in the last week of December, data showed on Thursday.
The Labor Department said the number of people still on jobless rolls after drawing an initial week of aid jumped 101,000 to 4.61 million in the week ended Dec. 27, the latest for which the data is available.
That was the highest since Nov. 1982 and beat analysts' expectations for a 4.50 million total.
While the overall size of the benefit rolls has been marching steadily higher, the number of U.S. workers submitting new claims for state unemployment aid dropped unexpectedly last week, a second consecutive decline.
Initial claims fell 24,000 to 467,000 in the week ended Jan. 3, the department said, well below the 540,000 new claims economists had expected. It was the lowest reading since the week ended Oct. 11, 2008 when it was at 463,000.