The Easter holiday made the data at the end of last month difficult to adjust, according to the agency.
Economists argue that the labor market is healthier when applications fall below 375,000, reflecting a slower pace of layoffs.
Employers added a disappointing 88,000 jobs last month, renewing concerns that the economy's recovery is losing steam.
The jobless rate dropped to 7.6 percent but only because nearly 500,000 people stopped looking for work.
But groups such as retailers said that while fiscal uncertainty in Washington may be weighing on jobs growth in their industry, cold weather may have played a large role in hampering growth.
Economists say the March monthly data could reflect temporary factors and job creation could improve in April. But there also is concern about the potential effects of the $85 billion sequester on the economy.
Some argue that it could cut into jobs growth through the summer and slow the nation's already sluggish economic recovery.