The number of people seeking jobless benefits jumped sharply last week, after two straight weeks of declines. The increase undermines hopes that unemployment claims, after falling four times in the previous five weeks, were on a sustained downward trend. That would signal layoffs were slowing down and hiring was picking up. Instead, claims remain stuck at an elevated level. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for unemployment aid rose by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000 for the week ending Oct. 30. Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a smaller rise. Claims have fluctuated around the 450,000 level all year. They will need to drop below 425,000 to signal sustained job gains. We won't hold our breaths on that one. Besides, Congress will be back to voting on whether to pay unemployment benefits, which people have actually paid into, very soon. Since Republicans were voting against extending unemployment benefits before the midterm elections, we pretty much can figure out how this is going to go down.

Read more at the Associated Press.