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Jobless claims in another surprise surge

By Chavon Sutton, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance for the first time jumped for the second week in a row, according to government data released Thursday.

There were 484,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended April 10, up 24,000 from an unrevised 460,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected new claims to fall to 440,000 in the latest week. The number of new claims was the highest since the week ended Feb. 20, when initial claims totaled 486,000.

The Labor Department also tracks the four-week moving average of initial claims, which smoothes out volatility in the measure. That number reached 457,750 for the week, up 7,500 from the previous week's downwardly revised average of 450,250.

The Labor Department attributes the jump in initial claims to volatility related to the Easter holiday and other so-called "administrative" factors.

"I agree with this because all of the labor market indicators are looking up" said Gus Faucher, senior economist for Moody's Economy.com.

The number of people filing continuing claims totaled 4,639,000 in the week ended April 3, the most recent data available. That figure was up 73,000 from the preceding week's 4,556,000 claims, and above the 4.58 million economists expected, according to Briefing.com.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims totaled 4,638,500, down 13,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 4,652,250.

Continuing claims data exclude people whose benefits expired or those who have moved to state or federal extensions. It reflects those filing each week after their initial claim until the end of their standard benefits, which usually last 26 weeks.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have moved closer to approving an extension of unemployment insurance. In March, the government instituted a number of tax breaks for businesses and other measures to spark job growth and bring down the national unemployment rate, which hovers at 9.7%.

Jobless claims jumped the most in Pennsylvania, with an increase of 5,314, primarily due to more layoffs in the construction, service, food, and transportation industries.

New Jersey and Illinois rounded out the top three states with the largest climb in new claims. Conversely, Texas, California, and Florida were the top three states with the largest declines in initial claims.

The report comes on the heels of a spate of upbeat economic data, including Wednesday's strong retail sales report and low inflation reading. And earlier in April the government reported that the U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs in March.

Faucher warned against reading too much into weekly reports, as recent indicators, including hiring surveys, point to continued, albeit slow, growth in non-farm payrolls.

"Week-to-week numbers can be volatile," said Faucher. "It will work itself out over the next few weeks."  To top of page

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