There is little sign that employers are willing to hire -- even as the economy shows signs of recovering.
Unemployment numbers jumped more than expected last week after falling five times in the last six weeks.
Labor Department figures show new jobless claims rose to 531,000 last week, which is up from 520,000 during the previous week.
Many unemployed have sought an extension to their benefits after it was approved by Congress to add up to 53 weeks to the 26 weeks typically covered by the government.
The recession officially began in December 2007 and has been called the worst since the 1930s. The workforce was hit hard with a net loss of 7.2 million jobs, sending the nation's unemployment rate to 9.8 percent as of September.