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Unemployment claims drop

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of first-time filers for unemployment insurance fell last week, according to a government report released Thursday.

There were 457,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended June 19, down 19,000 from a revised 476,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department said.

The number of claims was slightly lower than expected. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected new claims to drop to 460,000.

"We at least went in the right direction this time, but it certainly doesn't indicate an overall improving trend," said Robert Dye, senior economist at PNC Financial Services. "The broader pattern is a sideways movement and an overall lack of improvement."

The 4-week moving average of initial claims was 462,750, down 1,500 from the previous week. Moving averages are tracked to smooth out the volatility week-to-week figures.

Continuing claims: The government said 4,548,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended June 12, the most recent data available. That's down 45,000 from the previous week.

The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 21,750 to 4,586,500 from the previous week's revised 4,608,250.

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

State-by-state data: Despite the overall drop in new claims, no states reported a decrease of more than 1,000 for the week ended June 12.

Nine states said initial claims rose by more than 1,000. Claims in California rose the most, by 17,572, due to layoffs in the service industry.

Claims in Pennsylvania jumped 5,266, which the state attributed to layoffs in the transportation and service sectors.

Florida and Texas also saw jobless claims rise last week, ticking up 4,958 and 2,971 respectively.

"The large increases in these two states possibly indicate the affects the Gulf oil spill has had on those economies so far," said Dye. "We can't call it a trend yet, but this is something we're definitely going to be watching going forward."

Outlook: While jobless claims improved at a dramatic rate during the second half of 2009, they have failed to budge from the 450,000 range this year.

"It does look like the economy has entered a soft patch," said Dye. "The big improvements happened right as we got out of the recession, but in 2010 we have flattened out and are just bouncing around that flat trend."

Despite discouraging signs from the labor and housing markets recently, Dye said he expects the economy to gradually recover.

"I'm still expecting a moderate or half-speed recovery, but it's really going to depend on private sector job creation, income growth and consumer confidence," he said. "If we get all these things moving in the right direction I think we'll be headed on the right track."  To top of page

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