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Unemployment filings jump back up

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Initial filings for unemployment insurance ticked up in the latest week, but continued to hover in the same range they have been since November, the government reported Thursday.

The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits rose to 465,000 in the week ended Sept. 18, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The number was higher than economists' forecasts of 450,000 for the week, according to consensus estimates by Briefing.com. It also marked an increase from the upwardly revised 453,000 initial claims filed in the previous week, which was shortened by Labor Day.

Both this week's higher figure, and the upward revision to last week's number disappointed investors, driving stock futures lower in pre-market trading.

"It's a problematic level and really inconsistent with any meaningful job growth," said Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wells Fargo. "It raises the risk that the unemployment rate is going to move back toward 10% toward the end of the year."

Initial claims had declined in the two prior weeks, giving investors some hope for the job market. But overall, the weekly number has made little progress since November, hovering in the mid to upper 400,000s and even ticking slightly above 500,000 in mid-August.

As unemployment figures remain one of the defining measures of the recovery, economists say they're looking for weekly initial claims to trend below the current range before they're entirely optimistic about the economy.

"Companies are still focusing more on cutting costs than they are on growing their business, and that's really what has not changed," Vitner said. "Businesses have been unwilling to take on any risks, and hiring a worker is taking on risk."

The four-week moving average of initial claims, calculated to smooth out volatility, totaled 463,250, down 3,250 from the previous week's revised average of 466,500.

Continuing claims: The number of people continuing to file unemployment claims for a second week or more fell to 4,489,000 during the week ended Sept. 11, the most recent data available.

That's down 48,000 from an upwardly revised 4,537,000 the week before. Economists were expecting continuing claims to edge down to 4,450,000.

The four-week moving average for ongoing claims rose by 2,500 to 4,537,000.

Earlier this month, the government's closely watched monthly jobs report showed that the economy cut payrolls by 54,000 jobs in August. The national unemployment rate stood at 9.6%.

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