WASHINGTON, Thu Aug 23, 2012 –The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, suggesting the labor market is healing too slowly to make much of a dent in the unemployment rate.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was the highest level in five weeks.
The data keeps pressure on President Barack Obama ahead of his November re-election bid. His Republican challenger is trying to focus voters’ attention on a lofty unemployment rate that has dogged Obama’s presidency.
Many economists think the Federal Reserve could unveil a new bond buying program to prop up economic growth as soon as its next meeting Sept 12-13, although an improvement in hiring this month could make that less likely.
The report on jobless claims did have a silver lining, however.
The data covers the same week looked at by the government for its monthly measure of employment, and showed a slight drop in layoffs from the survey week last month, which is a mildly positive signal for hiring in August.
The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, was 368,000 last week. That was a slight increase from the prior week, but still 2.1 percent lower than in the second week of July.