US jobless claims grew for the fifth time in six weeks and consumer prices fell in May, opening the door wider for the Us Federal Reserve to help an economy that shows signs of weakening.
Though the increase was small, it undermined hopes a recent slowdown would be temporary.
"There is very little sign of life," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors in Albany, New York. "The economy as measured by employment conditions has slowed and there doesn't appear to be any change when you look at the claims numbers."
New claims rose by 6,000 last week, the Labour Department said on Thursday, and have been trending higher since February, which may have marked a turning point for the US economy.
The slackening US recovery and a worsening debt crisis in Europe have increased expectations of a further easing of monetary policy by the Fed, although economists are divided on whether the central bank will act when it holds its next policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.