The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped by 66,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 374,000. But the spike was largely because California processed a huge backlog of claims and the partial government shutdown prompted some contractors to cut jobs.
The sharp rise comes after the average fell to a 6 1/2-year low last week. The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average rose 20,000 to 325,000.
A government spokesman said about half the weekly increase occurred in California, where official processed applications that were delayed several weeks ago by a computer upgrade. One-quarter of the increase reflected applications from employees at government contractors.
Federal workers temporarily laid off by the shutdown may also file for benefits. But those figures won't be published until next week.