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Jobless claims tick back above 400,000

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits edged up last week, the government said Thursday.

There were 410,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Feb. 12, according to the Labor Department. That was up 25,000 from the week before, and slightly more than the 408,000 claims economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected.

Continuing claims -- which include people filing for the second week of benefits or more -- rose by 1,000 to 3,911,000 in the week ended Feb. 5, the most recent week available.

While initial claims data have been distorted recently by severe winter snow storms, the numbers have been trending lower since August. The weekly figure is near its lowest levels since July 2008.

The numbers still reflect inclement weather in certain parts of the country, but the effect was minimal in the most recent week, according to a Labor Department official.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims, which aims to smooth out volatility, rose to 417,750 from the previous week's revised average of 416,000.

"This is nothing to worry about," said Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics. "The downward trend is still in place, though the weekly numbers have been hugely volatile in recent weeks because of the severe weather."

Looking ahead, Shepherdson said he expects "a further sustained decline in claims" as conditions improve for small businesses and access to credit becomes easier.

The overall decline in jobless claims comes as the economy continues to show signs of strength. The Federal Reserve raised its forecast on Wednesday for economic growth this year, however the unemployment rate is expected to remain near 9%. To top of page

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