Jobless claims ease for 2nd straight week

Number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits falls to 432,000 in latest week, below expectations.

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By Lara Moscrip, CNNMoney.com contributing writer

The presidential candidate I believe will have the most positive influence on my pocketbook is:
  • McCain
  • Obama
  • Neither

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of out-of-work Americans who signed up for jobless benefits fell for the second week in a row, coming in below economists' expectations.

The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial filings for state jobless benefits decreased by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 432,000 in the week ended Aug. 16.

It was the fifth straight week that the jobless filings number was above 400,000, a benchmark that indicates weakness in the job market. The number of filings reached a 6-year high of 457,000 in the week ended Aug. 2.

The decrease in filings exceeded economists' expectations that claims would hit 438,000.

The four-week seasonally adjusted moving average of new jobless claims grew 7,250 to 445,750 in the past week. Last year at this time, the figure was 320,000. The average is used to smooth out weekly fluctuations.

The number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits fell by 17,000 in the week ended Aug. 9 to 3.36 million. That number stood at 2.6 million last year. Aug. 9 is the most current date for which data is available.

The four-week moving claims average for those continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose by 66,250 to 3.33 million. That compared to 2.55 million at this point last year.

Guy Faucher, an economist with Moody's Economy.com, said legislation extending unemployment benefits has pushed up the number of people filing since late July. But he expects the extension's impact to be minimal by next month.

"I still think we're seeing the impact of the extension of uninsurance," Faucher said. "But at the same time, we're seeing a labor market that continues to weaken. Workers who have lost their jobs are having a hard time finding a new one."

In the measure signed in June by President Bush, unemployment benefits were extended by as long as 13 weeks for some. The Labor Department said that, in notifying thousands of Americans about the extension, it uncovered that many people were eligible for initial filings.

Employers have cut jobs every month so far this year, pushing the net loss to 463,000. Meanwhile, the nation's unemployment rate jumped to a five-year high of 5.7% last month.

Companies announcing layoffs within the past week included media giant Gannett (GCI, Fortune 500), which will eliminate 1,000 jobs, including 600 layoffs.  To top of page

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