NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment insurance jumped last week to the highest level in 3 months, the government said Thursday.
There were 479,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended July 31, up 19,000 from a upwardly revised 460,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said. The weekly figure is the highest since the week ended April 10, when 480,000 initial claims were filed.
The number of claims was higher than the 455,000 claims expected in a consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
The 4-week moving average of initial claims, which is calculated to smooth out volatility, was 458,500, up 5,250 from the previous week's upwardly revised average of 453,250.
"The job market is pretty muted," said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at Channel Capital Research. "It's not getting much worse, but it's not getting any better either."
Roberts said the monthly employment report will provide a clearer picture of trends in the labor market, but it's clear that a long road still lies ahead of a jobs recovery.
"The government has been driving the improvements we've seen in unemployment so far, so as soon as it stops spending, we'll be back to where we were before," Roberts said.
As census jobs and the stimulus continue to fade, Roberts said jobless claims will increase.
Continuing claims: The government said 4,537,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended July 24, the most recent data available. That's down 34,000 from the preceding week's upwardly revised 4,571,000 claims.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were looking for 4,530,000 ongoing claims.
The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims climbed by 25,750 to 4,575,500 from the preceding week's upwardly revised 4,549,750.
State by state: Jobless claims in 19 states declined by more than 1,000 in the week ended July 24, the most recent state data available. Claims in California dropped the most, by 19,107, which the state attributed to fewer layoffs in the service industries.
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