Applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose for a third straight week, potentially a sign of worsening labor-market conditions as well as choppiness in weekly data.

Initial unemployment claims in regular state programs rose to 362,000 in the week ended Sept. 25, led by another surge in California, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a decrease to 330,000 new applications.

Continuing claims for state benefits fell to 2.8 million in the week ended Sept. 18.

The increase likely underscores swings in weekly data as employers are desperate to hire more workers and hang onto the ones they still have. Claims are also still hovering near pandemic lows.

That said, the last time there were three consecutive weeks of rising unemployment claims was April 2020, though those increases were significantly larger.

Bloomberg News