Jobless claims unchanged last week

WASHINGTON, Thu Aug 30, 2012 – The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits was unchanged last week, pointing to a labor market that was treading water.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were a seasonally adjusted 374,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 370,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, rose 1,500 to 370,250.

Jobless claims have risen by 10,000 in August, suggesting some moderation in the pace of job growth this month after payrolls increased 163,000 in July from 64,000 in June.

The state of the labor market, particularly the unemployment rate, could determine whether the Federal Reserve will offer additional monetary stimulus to the economy at its September 12-13 policy meeting.

The unemployment rate, which ticked up to 8.3 percent in July, has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.

Although housing and retail sales data suggest that economic activity picked up early in the third quarter, business spending is weakening and inflation is slowing.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 5,000 to 3.32 million in the week ended August 18. The so-called continuing claims data fell during the week of the August household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived.

Jobless claims little changed last week; labor market expanding at a moderate pace

WASHINGTON, Thu May 24, 2012 – New claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week, government data on Thursday showed, suggesting the labor market continues to expand at a moderate pace.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 372,000 from the previously reported 370,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims unchanged last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, dropped 5,500 to 370,000.

Claims have barely budged in the past four weeks indicating a marginal improvement in the pace of job creation after April’s disappointing 115,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level claims data and no states had been estimated.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 29,000 to 3.26 million in the week ended May 12.

The so-called continuing claims data covered the week for the household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived. The jobless rate dropped to 8.1 percent in April from 8.2 percent the prior month, but mostly as people gave up the hunt for work.

While more states are losing eligibility for extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, that is not yet being fully captured in the claims data as the figures are reported with a time lag.

Economists expect that as more people fall off the unemployment benefit rolls, that will artificially push down the jobless rate. Out-of-work people not receiving benefits are not obliged to be actively looking for work, a key criteria to be counted as unemployed.

The number of people on extended benefits dipped 4,800 to 299,955 in the week ended May 5, the latest week for which data is available. Only 15 states and the District of Columbia were offering extended benefits during that period.