Jobless claims rise sharply during holiday week

Unemployment claims end of 2015 - last week

Unemployment claims rose sharply last week, signaling a potential slowdown in the job market or a temporary slowdown caused by holiday factors.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 for the week ended December 26, the U.S. Labor Department said on Thursday.

That marks the highest level of unemployment claims since July, although in recent months the weekly readings for claims have held near a 42-year low.

The U.S. labor market heated up in 2015, enough for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates on December 16 for the first time in a decade.

Many analysts believe the job market will see jobs increase at a slower pace in 2016. Unemployment now sits at 5%. Jobless claims have appeared to stabilize since the middle of 2015.

The four-week moving average, which analysts follow closely because it weeds out volatility, rose 4500 to 277,000.

Claims have remained under 300,000, a threshold associated with a steady labor market. The 300,000 mark have been avoided for 43 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since the early 1970s.

The number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 3,000 to 2.20 million in the week ended December 19, 2015.