The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week but remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring.
Weekly applications for unemployment benefits leapt 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The increase comes after applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows. Applications fell by a combined 45,000 in the second and third weeks of January.
The volatility reflects the government's difficulty adjusting the data to account for layoffs after the holiday shopping season. The government is scheduled to issue its January jobs report today. Analysts forecast that it will show employers added 155,000 jobs, the same as in December.
U.S. consumers increased their spending in December at a slower pace, while their income grew by the largest amount in eight years. Income surged because companies rushed to pay dividends before income taxes increased on high-earners.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that consumer spending rose 0.2 percent last month. That's slightly slower than the 0.4 percent increase in November.
Income jumped 2.6 percent in December from November, the biggest gain since December 2004. The main driver of the increase was dividend payments, which companies accelerated to beat the January rise in income tax rates.
Wages and salaries grew 0.6 percent.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed $20.1 billion purchase of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, which would unite the ownership of popular beers such as Budweiser and Corona.
The government said the deal could lead to higher beer prices in this country because it would substantially reduce competition in the U.S. beer market, particularly in 26 metropolitan areas. It said the merged firm would control nearly half the beer sales in the United States.
In response, Anheuser-Busch InBev promised a court fight to preserve its deal.