NEW YORK?Oil prices extended losses Thursday after new claims for US jobless benefits rose unexpectedly to the highest level since April, highlighting recovery concerns in the world's largest economy.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in September, shed 46 cents to $82.01 a barrel.
London's Brent North Sea crude for September delivery lost 59 cents to $81.61.
The market digested a US Labor Department report showing initial jobless benefit claims climbed 4.1 percent to 479,000 in the week to July 31, baffling most analysts who had expected claims to fall to 455,000.
The latest jobless data came ahead of a key US government report Friday that most economists say is expected to show already high unemployment nudging up as firms remain reluctant to hire in large numbers.
They believe July saw non-farm payrolls fall by 87,000 and the unemployment rate edge up to 9.6 percent, raising more doubts about the fragile economy recovery.
Although the jobless claims reading is unlikely to affect Friday's payroll numbers, which were gathered in an earlier survey, the markets are jittery, with equities mostly down.
There was "a little weakness after the US job data came out," said Tom Bentz, an analyst at BNP Paribas. "We had a lot of volatility over the last couple of days, so the market is just taking a breather."
Oil prices on Wednesday fell for the first time in five sessions despite data showing a drop in US crude inventories suggesting greater demand in the world's largest economy.
If the jobs data on Friday "are real bad, it could increase the chance of quantitative easing and weakness of the dollar and support the market, but it might also hurt demand and be bearish," said Phil Flynn, analyst at PFG Best.
"That is one of the reasons the market is not sure how to take the number," he added.
Some analysts have speculated that the US Federal Reserve may step up quantitative easing measures -- pumping money into the economy through the purchase of assets -- to prevent growth from slowing.