Jobless claims top 5.5 million
The number of Americans filing continuing claims for unemployment benefits rises to a fresh record as another 8,000 file first-time claims last week.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of people filing initial claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, while those filing continuing claims hit an all-time high for the ninth straight week, according to a government report released Thursday.
In the week ended March 21, a total of 652,000 people filed initial jobless claims, up 8,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 644,000, the Labor Department reported.
Economists had expected new claims to rise to 650,000, according to a survey by Briefing.com.
The number of people continuing to file for jobless benefits rose 122,000 to 5,560,000 people in the week ended March 11 - the latest week for which data was available. It was the highest number since the government began keeping records in 1967.
Continuing claims have hit record highs as more unemployed Americans struggle to find work. But the 4-week moving average of initial claims, which economists say gives a more accurate indication of unemployment trends, came down for the first time in 10 weeks.
The 4-week moving average for weekly filings, which smoothes out volatile peaks and troughs, was 649,000, down 1,000 from the previous week's revised average.
Still, the unemployment rate stands at 8.1% - the highest level in 25 years - and many economists expect it to exceed 10% later this year.
"The trend in claims is still upwards, though the rate of increase might be slowing," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, in a research note.
Thursday's jobs data come amid a recent bout of better-than-expected economic reports on housing, manufacturing and other critical areas. These early sings of improvement have helped boost stock prices in recent sessions, but many economists remain skeptical about the prospects for a long-term economic recovery.