By Greg Robb
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – First-time claims for state unemployment benefits jumped unexpectedly by the largest amount in eight months, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of initial claims in the week ending Jan. 16 rose 36,000 to 482,000. The consensus forecast of Wall Street economists was for claims to inch lower to 438,000. This is the highest level of claims since November. The four-week average rose 7,000 to 448,250. This is the first increase after 19 straight declines. Claims in the previous week were revised to an increase of 13,000 to 446,000 compared with the initial estimate of an increase of 11,000 to 444,000. A Labor Department official said that there were more estimates this week because of the holiday on Monday. In addition, some of the increase may be due to administrative delays in reporting claims since the Christmas and New Year holidays. Overall, a record 12 million Americans received federal and state unemployment benefits on an unadjusted basis in the week ended Jan. 2, the latest period for which the data is available. This is up from 10.9 million in the prior week.