New applications for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, as the struggling economy continues to take a toll on workers. The trade deficit, meanwhile, surged to a 16-month high in as oil prices hit record levels.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that applications for jobless benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 445,000, down by 6,000 from the prior week. That is above analysts' expectations of 440,000.
Economists consider jobless claims above 400,000 to be an indicator of a slowing economy.
The Commerce Department said the gap between imports and exports rose 5.7 percent to $62.2 billion, much worse than the $58.8 billion that Wall Street expected.
Both reports spurred investor unease about the economy, already aggravated by weakness in the financial sector. Wall Street appears headed for a lower opening.