Jobless claims dip to 361,000

But with the economy expected to play an outsize role in the November election, Republicans also latched on to the fact that the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent.

The four-week average for jobless claims, which smooths out some of the volatility of the weekly number, came in at 368,250, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week’s revised average. 

Claims have also been trending downward in recent weeks — Thursday’s announcement marks the seventh decline in eight weeks — after the economic recovery softened for a third consecutive spring. 

In general, analysts and economists say that claims stay below 375,000 in a healthy economy. 

Annual auto-plant shutdowns also made it more difficult in previous weeks for government analysts to get a true handle on claims data. 

But those temporary closures were not expected to have any influence on the most recent claims figures. Fears over the looming fiscal cliff and Europe’s fiscal troubles have made employers more hesitant, according to analysts.