The number of US workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose by a larger than expected 15,000 last week, government data on Thursday showed, reinforcing evidence about the weak state of the labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits increased to a seasonally adjusted 478,000 in the week ended Oct. 18 from a revised 463,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 470,000 new claims versus a previously reported count of 461,000 the week before.
The Labor Department said that the effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas added roughly 12,000 claims to the total. “The story is that the underlying trend is moving up pretty strongly and job losses are clearly getting worse,” said Nigel Gault, chief US economist at Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.
The four-week average of new jobless claims, a better gauge of underlying labor trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, declined to 480,250 from 484,750 the week before. This was the lowest reading since late September, but remained at a high level. This measure has mounted steadily as the US housing slump chilled growth and crimped hiring.
The number of people remaining on the benefits roll after drawing an initial week of aid decreased 6,000 to 3.72 million in the week ended Oct. 11, the most recent week for which data is available. Analysts estimated so-called continued claims would be 3.72 million.
It was the 26th straight week that claims were above 3 million in a sign that the slowing economy is making it harder for US workers to find jobs. (Reuters)