U.S. unemployment claims hit their highest level in nearly six months last week, evidence that the job market is not recovering as fast as economists had hoped.
Thursday's report from the Labor Department showed the number of people signing up for unemployment assistance rose 2,000 to hit a total of 484,000 across the country.
Economists say the slow and uneven recovery of the job market hurts the consumer spending that drives most U.S. economic activity. Weak consumer spending is slowing overall economic recovery and growth.
The jobs data follows earlier reports that disappointed investors, including one showing the U.S. trade deficit getting worse.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said his administration is doing everything it can to bolster the economic recovery that he says "has a long way to go."
The economy is likely to play a key role in November's mid-term elections that will determine how many seats Mr. Obama's Democratic Party allies will hold and how much power will go to opposition Republicans.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.