WASHINGTON – U.S. jobless claims jumped to their highest level since October last week while food and energy costs lifted producer prices in December, pointing to headwinds for an economy that has shown fresh vigor.

However, a surge in exports to their highest level in two years helped narrow the U.S. trade deficit in November, an encouraging sign for fourth-quarter economic growth.

Despite a string of recent data that had signaled a pickup in the economy's momentum, the figures on Thursday showed the job market struggling.

The jobs data weighed on U.S. stocks, which were off slightly in late morning. Government debt prices were little changed as concerns about Europe's debt struggles helped support the market.

The rebound in benefit claims came in the wake of the holidays, which may have hindered new applications and created a backlog. Claims, which peaked around 650,000 in April 2009, had been on a downward trajectory — dipping below 400,000 for the first time in two years during Christmas week.