The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week, with several states reporting an increase related to Tropical Storm Isaac.
In a separate report, a sharp rise in gasoline costs drove up wholesale prices last month by the most in more than three years. But outside energy and food, price gains were mild.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 382,000, the highest in two months, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 370,000 last week.
A Labor Department official said Tropical Storm Isaac, which drenched parts of the country, accounted for about 9,000 of the claims filed last week. The number is unadjusted.
But even accounting for the storm, the report suggested little improvement in the labor market after job growth slowed sharply in August. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, climbed 3,250 to 375,000, the highest since the middle of July.
Employers added 96,000 jobs last month, a step down from July's 141,000 count. While the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent in August from 8.3 percent, it was because Americans gave up the search for work.
The sluggish labor market is seen prompting the Federal Reserve to announce a third round of bond purchases at the end of a two-day policy meeting later on Thursday.
The unemployment rate has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 49,000 to 3.28 million in the week ended Sept. 1, the claims report showed.
Producer Price Index Higher
The Labor Department says that the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, jumped 1.7 percent in August. The increase was mostly because gas prices soared 13.6 percent, the biggest gain in three years.
Food prices rose 0.9 percent, driven up by steep increases in the cost of eggs and dairy products.
Excluding the volatile food and gas categories, core wholesale prices rose only 0.2 percent, below July's increase.
In the past 12 months, wholesale prices have increased 2 percent, a mild gain and far below the recent peak of 7.1 percent in July 2011.