The number of people filing claims for state unemployment insurance pay rose to 365,000 in the November 29 week from a revised 354,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.

Economists, however, were not overly worried and a Labor Department spokesman cautioned against reading too much into the rise, saying claims figures tend to be more volatile during the holiday season.

The climb in state claims nudged the four-week moving average, regarded as a more reliable gauge of job market strength because it smooths out week-to-week volatility, to 362,500 from 359,500 in the prior week.

However, initial claims held below the key 400,000 watermark for the ninth straight week. This was the longest stretch below what economists regard as the dividing line between an improving and eroding job picture since an eight-week run in early 2002.