People wait in line at a job fair n Portland, Ore., in 2011.
(USA TODAY) -- New claims for unemployment benefits rose 4,000 in the week ended April 13, to 352,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The 4-week moving average was 361,250, up 2,750 from the previous week's revised average of 358,500.
Stock index futures sagged after the report.
Employment figures have been uneven lately. U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, fewest in nine months and a sharp retreat after a period of strong hiring.
The decline, from 268,000 net new jobs in February, confirmed fears of a hiring slowdown that economists say could persist for several months.
Unemployment claims jumped three weeks ago to a four-month high, then fell back the following week. The sharp fluctuations likely reflected volatility around the Easter holiday, department officials said. Overall, applications have declined slightly since January.
The unemployment rate in March fell to 7.6% from 7.7% in February, largely because 496,000 people stopped working or looking for work, the Labor Department said . The percentage of Americans in the labor force fell from 65.5% to 65.3% - lowest since 1979.