Surprise jump in jobless claims

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter

NEW YORK ( -- The number of first-time filers for unemployment insurance rose last week for the first time in a month, according to a weekly government report released Thursday.

There were 471,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended May 15, up 25,000 from an upwardly revised 446,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.

The number of claims was higher than expected and curbed a four-week trend of losses. Economists surveyed by had expected new claims to fall to 439,000.

Initial claims have been stuck in a rut near the mid- to upper- 400,000s since November. A one-week bounce up isn't all that alarming, but economists would like to see it move below 400,000 as further indication of a recovery, said John Canally, an economist with LPL Financial.

"Companies need to be more confident in the recovery, and you seem to be seeing that. It's a bit perplexing why claims haven't fallen more," he said. "In general, most businesses are pretty confident if you look at first quarter earnings reports and comments made by management. Where hiring hasn't occurred yet is in small businesses."

The four-week moving average for weekly initial claims was 453,500, up slightly from 450,500 from the previous week. The Labor Department tracks the four-week moving average of the weekly figures, to smooth out the volatility of the measure.

Meanwhile, 4,625,000 people continued to file unemployment claims for their second week or more, during the week ended May 8, the most data available. That's down from an upwardly revised 4,665,000 the week before.

Standard unemployment benefits usually last 26 weeks. The continued claims number does not include those who have moved into state or federal extensions, or people whose benefits have expired but may still be without a job.

The weekly report follows on the heels of a Federal Reserve announcement Wednesday, that the central bank has reduced its forecast for the nation's unemployment rate to a range between 9.1% and 9.5% this year, versus 9.5% to 9.7% in January.

The national unemployment rate currently stands at 9.9%. To top of page

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