Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

First-time unemployment filings head the wrong way

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- First-time filings for unemployment claims jumped last week, coming in above the key 400,000 level for the third straight week, according to a government report Thursday.

The number of initial claims rose to to 429,000 in the week ended Apr. 23, up 25,000 from the week before. It was the highest level in three months, and surprised economists, who were expecting initial claims to drop to 390,000 in the latest report.

"This is a major disappointment because it's another move in the wrong direction," said Tim Quinlan, economic analyst at Wells Fargo.

The 4-week moving average of initial filings-- a number that tries to smooth out week-to-week volatility -- also rose above the threshold to 408,500, up 9,250 from the previous week. The 8-week moving average, which is an even better gauge for the longer-term trend, also ticked above 400,000.

"This is more than just a misstep for the job market," Quinlan said. "It's a signal that the robust job growth we've seen recently is poised to lose momentum."

In the government's last monthly reading on the labor market, the unemployment rate fell for a fourth straight month in March to 8.8%, the lowest since March 2009, as the economy gained 216,000 jobs. The Labor Department's April job report is due at the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing for ongoing claims decreased 68,000 to 3,709,000 in the week ended April 16, the latest data available. That's the lowest figure since September 2008, and below economists' estimates for 3,690,000 continuing claims.

Ongoing claims reflect people who file each week after their initial claim until the end of their standard benefits, usually after 26 weeks.

The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 22,750 to 3,697,750.

But the downward trend may not all be good news.

Quinlan said the figure could be skewed by the expiration of benefits for those Americans who have been jobless for long periods of time and are no longer eligible for unemployment insurance.

While the length of eligibility varies by state, that maximum length of time Americans can file for benefits is 99 weeks.

"We can't be certain it's a positive trend yet," Quinlan said. "The Labor Department doesn't specify whether these people are rolling off their benefits or if they've found jobs."

For healthy improvement in the job market, Quinlan said unemployment claims need to come in consistently below 400,000 and the economy needs to add between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs monthly.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,854.81 134.89 0.76%
Nasdaq 5,148.38 39.71 0.78%
S&P 500 2,097.97 17.56 0.84%
Treasuries 2.16 -0.06 -2.84%
Data as of 3:29pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.70 0.27 1.58%
General Electric Co 29.92 -0.02 -0.05%
Pfizer Inc 33.49 0.72 2.18%
Microsoft Corp 54.93 0.58 1.07%
Apple Inc 117.20 -1.10 -0.93%
Data as of 3:13pm ET


Cyber Monday saw an increase in the number of out-of-stock items this year, according to data from Adobe. More

Strong November U.S. car sales has industry poised to set a record for sales once December results are reported. More

Microsoft is enjoying a renaissance under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella. The cloud strategy is paying off and the stock is not far from its all-time highs. But now comes the hard part .. living up to the hype. More

Hive, a startup funded by the UN, is tasked with getting more Americans engaged with the refugee crisis. More

Have you heard of Harvey Mudd College? A degree from this small liberal arts school can cost more than a house, but grads earn about $92,300 a year after getting their degree. Google hired 11 Mudders last year. More