Washington, Sep 3 (IANS/EFE) Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the US increased by 12,000 last week to 282,000, the highest total since early July, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The increase in first-time claims exceeded economists’ expectations.

The rolling four-week average of initial claims, seen as a more reliable measure of labor market trends, climbed 3,250 to 275,500. The average has remained around or below 300,000 since last September.

Continuing benefit claims fell by 9,000 to 2.26 million in the week ending on August 22.

The official unemployment rate remained at 5.3 percent in July, the lowest level in seven years, as the economy added 215,000 new jobs.

Analysts expect the August unemployment report, due on Friday, will show the rate falling to 5.2 percent with the creation of roughly 223,000 new jobs.

The Labor Department’s broader U6 measure of unemployment, which includes people working part-time who would prefer full-time and workers who have given up looking for a job, remained in double digits in July, at 10.4 percent.