The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, likely boosted by brutal winter storms in the densely populated South in mid-February, though the labor market outlook is reportedly improving.

Iran Press/America: That was confirmed by other data on Thursday showing job cuts announced by US-based companies plummeted 57% in February.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 745,000 for the week ended Feb. 27, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 750,000 applications in the latest week.

Unadjusted claims rose 31,519 to 748,078 last week, boosted by filings in Texas and New York, as well as in Ohio, which has been plagued by fraudulent applications.

Stormy weather in the South left large parts of Texas without power or water for days. The deep freeze shut oil production and refineries in Texas, the biggest producer of natural gas and oil in the United States.

Including a government-funded program for the self-employed, gig workers, and others who do not qualify for the regular state programs, 1.2 million people filed claims last week.

But the sun is slowly starting to peek through the clouds shrouding the labor market. In a separate report on Thursday, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said U.S. companies announced 34,531 job cuts in February. That was the smallest number since December 2019 and was down from 79,552 in January.