Separately, initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 22,000 to 496,000 last week, the Labor Department said.
Analysts had expected jobless claims to fall to 455,000.
"We can hope this is a temporary setback but it certainly looks as though in the first quarter...the economy is retrenching," said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York.
That's the third week in a row that first time jobless claims have risen. Next Friday, the February jobs' numbers will come out. If the first time jobless claims are any indication, that number will be ugly.
The president spent 20 plus minutes in his state of the union on jobs. He didn't start talking about health care until 40 minutes in and it lasted less than five minutes. That was more than a month ago. The indication following the SOTU was that Obama was going to pivot from health care to jobs.
That hasn't happened. All the political oxygen since then has been filled going after health care which,frankly, isn't going to pass. The much anticipated health care summit just got under way. That will be the focus of of non stop hyperanalysis for at least another week.
So, we'll be at least into March and the president will still be focused on health care. Worse yet, AT BEST he'll pass some sort limited health care reform. If that happens, he'll take some credit but it won't be any sort of monumental accomplishment.
It turns out that Senator DeMint was right. Health care is Obama's Waterloo. He allowed himself to get caught in political quicksand. He created the environment for a bill that was universally hated. Furthermore, he created an environment for a bill that just can't pass. Worse yet, he's stuck and he can't seem to get away from it. He can't seem to figure out how to get away from it. So, the jobs president will continue to be overwhelmed by health care until it's his Waterloo.