NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased last week, the government reported Thursday, as the closely watched reading exceeded Wall Street expectations.
There were 349,000 people filing for initial unemployment benefits in the week ended June 19, up from the 336,000 who filed the previous week. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com forecast initial claims would rise to 340,000 in the most recent period.
One possible factor driving up filings during the most recent week was the closing of many government offices the last day of the previous week for the funeral of former President Ronald Reagan, which could have delayed some people's filing for benefits.
The four-week moving average of initial claims was 344,250, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 343,250. But the four-week average is well below the 421,500 reading during the same period a year ago.
An improved outlook for employment in various reports over the last three months has raised expectations that the Federal Reserve will start to raise interest rates for the first time in four years as a way of combating inflationary pressures. Thursday's report was the last employment reading before next week's Fed meeting, at which policy makers are expected to raise rates by a quarter of a percentage point.