Friday, August 24, 2012

U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Rise to 372,000

U.S. weekly jobless claims rise to 372,000

Economic Report

Applications reflect little change in nation’s hiring trends

August 23, 2012|Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Applications for U.S. jobless benefits rose slightly last week, the government reported Thursday, but the latest figures suggest little change in the nation’s underperforming labor market.

Initial claims increased by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week ended Aug. 18, the Labor Department said. That’s the highest level in five weeks.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected claims would rise to 369,000.

The level of claims is a rough gauge of whether layoffs are rising or falling. Applications for unemployment benefits have hovered around 370,000 for the past month, a level that indicates a modest increase in hiring at best.

Yet claims have shown virtually no improvement after falling to a four-year low in February, reflecting a slowdown in the U.S. economy and greater caution by business when it comes to adding staff.

The persistent threat of a financial crisis in Europe and the potential for sharp spending cuts and tax increases in the U.S. early next year have added to the worries.

“While the uptick is not severe enough to derail hopes that U.S. hiring has improved from its earlier slowdown, it will curtail hopes that hiring is building further momentum,” said economist Andrew Grantham of CIBC World Markets.

The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, climbed by 3,750 to 368,000. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as a more accurate barometer of labor-market trends.

Also Thursday, the Labor Department said continuing claims increased by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.32 million in the week ended Aug. 11. Continuing claims reflect the numbers of people already receiving benefits.

About 5.59 million people received some kind of state or federal benefit in the week ended Aug. 4, down 109,812 from the prior week. Total claims are reported with a two-week lag.

Initial claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 368,000 from an original reading of 366,000, based on more complete data collected at the state level.

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