Published: May 20, 2010 1:49 PM EDT
Updated: May 20, 2010 1:49 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people filing new claims for

unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest

amount in three months. The big surge was a setback to hopes that

layoffs were declining.

The Labor Department says that applications for unemployment

benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up by 25,000 from the previous

week. It was the first increase in five weeks and the biggest jump

since a gain of 40,000 in February.

The forecast had been for claims to fall by around 4,000 from

the previous week. The unexpectedly large rise in new claims

underscored that even though the economy is growing, improvements

in the labor market are coming in fits and starts.