Initial jobless claims rose 11,000 and came in at 278,000 in the January 31 week.

The 4-week week average came in at 292,750.

Continuing claims, reported with a 1-week lag, are also at healthy levels though the month-ago comparison is less favorable.

Jobless claims in shale states led much of the rise.

Separately, in the first warning of serious trouble from the oil patch, Challenger's layoff count starts off the year with an elevated reading, at 53,041 for the highest reading since February 2013 and the highest January reading since 2012.

Readings in December and November were much lower, at 32,640 and 35,940.
The energy sector represented roughly 40% of January's cuts, at 20,193. Cuts in the energy sector were minimal in the fourth-quarter, averaging only 1,330 per month.

The sector seeing the second largest number of cuts in January is retail, at 6,699 in downsizing following the holidays.

Continuing claims in the January 24 week rose 6,000 to 2.400 million while the 4-week average, though down 22,000, is at a 2.421 million level that is slightly above the month-ago trend. The unemployment rate for insured workers is holding at a recovery low of 1.8 percent.

There are no special factors in today's report.