WASHINGTON (AFP) - New claims for US jobless benefits jumped to a three-month high, the government said Thursday in a report underscoring ongoing struggles for the labor market and the economic recovery. The seasonally adjusted initial claims in the week ending Feb 20 rose to 496,000, an increase of 22,000 from from the previous weeks revised figure of 474,000, the Labor Department said. Most analysts had expected a decline to around 460,000 as the prior weeks data had also risen unexpectedly. Claims had tumbled to 432,000 during the week that ended Jan 2 to their lowest level since mid-2008 but have been volatile since the beginning of the year, casting doubts about a labor market recovery. The Labor Department said that the four-week moving average for the jobless insurance claims, a less volatile indicator than the week-to-week figures, was 473,750, an increase of 6,000 from the previous weeks revised average of 467,750. The latest data also showed a jump in the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits. The number of seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Feb 13 was 4.617m, an increase of 6,000 from the preceding weeks revised level of 4.611m. US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned in his semiannual report to Congress on Wednesday that unemployment remaining stubbornly high, requiring the central bank to stay on a stimulative path, doing little to change monetary policy. With unemployment near double-digit level and predicted to come down slowly as economic growth gathers pace, President Barack Obama has acknowledged that for many Americans, the misery was not yet over. Millions of Americans are still without jobs. Millions more are struggling to make ends meet. It doesnt yet feel like much of a recovery. I understand that.