NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits jumped sharply last week, two weeks after hitting a 2-1/2 year low below 400,000.
There were 445,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Jan. 8, the Labor Department said in a weekly report Thursday.
That's up 35,000 from a revised 410,000 the previous week -- when jobless claims climbed back above 400,000 after falling below that mark for the first time in more than two years.
Last week's rise was bigger than expected. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast initial claims to edge up to 415,000 in the latest report.
"Looking at the weekly numbers is like looking at the stock market on a day-to-day basis, you can expect a few ups and downs without a real reason," said Peter Maris, founder and principal at Resource Financial Group. "But the trend is still that jobless claims are stabilizing and the jobs picture is gradually getting better."
Maris said the labor market will continue to be slow to recover as employers remain cautious about hiring -- even though they have the money.
"Jobs are being posted but many employers just don't seem to be filling the jobs -- they are being cautious and either being too picky or waiting to see what the government is going to do on certain issues," said Maris.
"I think there will be a sharp decline [in jobless claims] as soon as the government comes out with tax incentives and does something to help small businesses," he added.
The 4-week moving average -- a figure that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility -- remained encouraging, edging up 5,500 to 416,500 from the previous week's revised average of 411,000.
Continuing claims: The government said 3,879,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended Jan. 1, the most recent data available. That was down 248,000 from the preceding week's revised 4,127,000 claims.
Ongoing claims reflect people who are filing for their second week or more, until their standard benefits run out -- usually after 26 weeks. Economists expected claims to ease to 4,080,000 in the latest week.
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