New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits were a high 388,000 in the most recent week, the Labor Department said Thursday, reversing an unexpected sharp fall in the previous week.

The new figure, covering the week to October 13, erased hopes from the previous week's plunge that the US job market was improving and unemployment was on the way down.

The new number for jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs in the economy, were 46,000 higher than the revised figure for the previous week, and back into the same range in which the data has held since the beginning of the year.

While not nearly as high as the pace of layoffs in 2010 and 2011, the unbudging number -- the four-week claims average was 365,500 -- underscored the difficulty the Obama administration faces in bringing down unemployment as the president fights for re-election.

Per state data in the most recent week was not yet available. But for the week to October 6, the largest layoffs were in New York, Oregon, Illinois, Texas and Georgia, and mainly came from manufacturing industries.