New unemployment filings decline

Initial claims fall slightly more than expected in latest week, Labor Department report shows.

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By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

unemployment_jobs.cr.03.jpg
Initial filings declined by 18,000 in the week ended May 3.
When it comes to the economy, I feel:
  • The worst is over
  • It will be up and down
  • It's going to get worse

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- New filings for unemployment claims fell more than expected in the latest week, according to a government report released Thursday.

Initial filings for state jobless benefits fell by 18,000 to 365,000 in the week ended May 3, the Labor Department said.

The consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com was a drop to 375,000.

The four-week moving average for initial claims rose to 367,000, an increase of 2,500 from the previous week's revised average of 364,500.

New claims for the week ended April 26 were revised up to 383,000. Initial claims were originally reported to be 380,000.

Economists say that when initial claims are above 400,000 for several weeks in a row, it indicates an economy in recession; at about 350,000, the economy is in a slowdown.

Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics, said that while Americans may think that we are in a recession, the economic numbers do not indicate that we are in a recession.

"As long as these jobless claims hover in this no man zone between 400 and 350, they are telling me that we are having some trouble, but we are not in a recession," Brusca said.

Unemployment insurance claims from workers already receiving benefits declined to 3.02 million, a decrease of 10,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3.03 million.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims increased to 2.99 million, versus the preceding week's revised average of 2.98 million.

"I think all you can say is that the numbers are mixed," said Brusca. "There is some weakness, but some signs of strength. This is not a place where you can say very well what is going on, it is still choppy."

Initial claims for the week ended April 26 increased the most in Massachusetts, New York, Kentucky, New Jersey and Michigan. The largest decreases occurred in Texas, Rhode Island, California, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

In states showing the highest jump in filings, the increase was due mostly to layoffs in the transportation, service, automobile and manufacturing sectors.

The weekly jobless figures come after the Labor Department reported last week that employers cut 20,000 jobs in April. While that decline was better than had been expected, April was the fourth straight month that employers eliminated positions.

Jobless claims offer a nearly real-time reading on layoffs and the labor market, while the payrolls report reflects the broader combined reading of layoffs and hiring. To top of page

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