By Vicki Needham - 04/14/11 02:23 PM EDT
The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure than the weekly number, was up 5,500 to 395,750.
Estimates for first-time claims ranged from 370,000 to 395,000. Analysts see last week's unexpected rise in claims as a temporary occurrence with the labor market trending stronger in the months ahead, which could put more money in consumers pockets as they face near record-high gas prices.
Economists have said applications between 300,000 and 400,000 reflect labor market growth. During the height of the recession, applications hit a high of 659,000.
The economy added 216,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent.
The number of people collecting benefits dropped 58,000 to 3.68 million during the week ending April 2, the lowest number since September 2008. The figure doesn't include workers receiving federal extended and emergency benefits.
About 8.5 million people received unemployment benefits in the week ending March 26, the latest data available. That's down slightly from the previous week.
The number of workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits and have moved on to federal programs increased by about 40,100 to 4.31 million in the week ended March 26.
Thirty-two states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 21 had a decrease.