Unemployment filings head higher

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment insurance rose last week, the government said Thursday.

There were 480,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Jan. 30, the Labor Department said in a weekly report. This is the highest level since Dec. 12 and up 8,000 from an upwardly revised 472,000 the previous week.

Economists were expecting claims to drop to 455,000, according to a consensus estimate from Briefing.com.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims was 468,750, up 11,750 from the previous week's revised average of 457,000.

"My general outlook had been that the worst of the layoffs were behind us," said Tim Quinlan, an economic analyst at Wells Fargo. "But this shows us that employers still have more fat to trim."

Continuing claims: The government said 4,602,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended Jan. 23, the most recent data available. That was up 2,000 from the previous week's revised 4,600,000 claims.

The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 51,250 to 4,617,500 from the previous week's revised 4,668,750.

But the drop may just mean that more filers are dropping off those rolls into extended benefits.

Continuing claims reflect people filing each week after their initial claim until the end of their standard benefits, which usually last 26 weeks. The figures do not include those people who have moved to state or federal extensions, or people whose benefits have expired.

In November, Congress passed a record-long extension of federally paid benefits up to 99 weeks. But the law only helps those who have used up their first 26 weeks of benefits by the end of 2009, so depending on the state, not everyone will receive benefits for the entire 99-week span.

The House and the Senate passed measures in December to extend the filing deadline through the end of February.

As part of President Obama's $154 billion jobs bill, which was also passed by the House in December, the deadline to file for unemployment insurance would be extended to June.

Lawmakers in both chambers had initially introduced bills to push the deadline to apply for benefits as far back as 2011, but House Democratic leaders compromised the effort in order to speed up the process of getting the bill through the Senate.

Despite the disappointing rise in claims, Quinlan said he expects job growth to pick up by the end of the first quarter, helped by the manufacturing sector.

"If there is a sector in this economy that looks like it's recovering faster than others, it's the manufacturing sector," he said. "I don't see manufacturing leading us out of the recovery, but they cut back so aggressively during the recession that as orders come back online, factories may be realizing they are a little short-staffed and that maybe they overdid it with the firings."

State-by-state: Unemployment claims in 2 states rose more than 1,000 for the week ended Jan. 23, the most recent data available. Claims in Oregon jumped the most, by 4,336.

A total of 31 states said the claims fell by more than 1,000. Claims in California dropped the most, by 22,674, which the state said was due to a shorter work week. To top of page

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