"These are some pretty awful initial claims numbers when you stop to consider that they are still well north of the peak seen in the last two recessions, which was in the 400,000 to 450,000 range," Patrick O' Hare, of Briefing.com, said.

New claims rise

The four-week average of new claims, which accounts for week-to-week volatility, was 570,000 – a rise of 4,250 from the previous week's average of 565,750.

The labour department also said that 6.24 million people were continuing to claim benefits as of August 8, an increase of 2,000 from the preceding week.

The figures come two weeks after US government figures said that the jobless rate had fallen 0.1 percentage points to 9.4 per cent in July, as job losses fell to 247,000.

Barack Obama, the US president, said that those figures were proof that a $787bn stimulus package was beginning to have an effect in stabilising the economy.

But the labour department figures of the number of jobless also said the size of the US labour force had fallen by 422,000 in July.

That prompted some analysts to predict that the jobless rate will spike when those outside the labour market re-enter it – and discover that they cannot find work.

Some economic experts have predicted that the unemployment rate could yet rise about 10 per cent before the effects of an improving economy take hold.