The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week, with several states reporting an increase related to Tropical Storm Issac.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 382,000, the highest in two months, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 370,000 last week.
A Labor Department official said Tropical Storm Issac, which drenched parts of the country, accounted for about 9,000 of the claims filed last week. The number is unadjusted.
But even accounting for the storm, the report suggested little improvement in the labor market after job growth slowed sharply in August. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, climbed 3,250 to 375,000, the highest since the middle of July.
Employers added 96,000 jobs last month, a step down from July's 141,000 count. While the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent in August from 8.3 percent, it was because Americans gave up the search for work.
The sluggish labor market is seen prompting the Federal Reserve to announce a third round of bond purchases at the end of a two-day policy meeting later on Thursday.
The unemployment rate has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 49,000 to 3.28 million in the week ended September 1, the claims report showed.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)