Initial jobless claims climbed 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 in the week ended Feb. 22, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists had expected claims to total 335,000. The number of people seeking benefits each week is seen as a good gauge of how many layoffs are taking place in the economy.
The average of new claims over the past month, usually a more reliable gauge than the up-and-down weekly number, was unchanged at 338,250.
After falling steadily in 2013, claims have settled into a range of 325,000 to 350,000 early in the new year. That might be a sign the pace of hiring has cooled off a bit, perhaps in part because unusually severe winter weather.
Meanwhile, the government said continuing jobless claims increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.96 million in the week ended Feb. 15. Continuing claims reflect the number of people already receiving benefits and are reported with a one-week delay.