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

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,804.80 26.65 0.15%
Nasdaq 4,765.38 16.98 0.36%
S&P 500 2,070.65 9.42 0.46%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.03 -1.27%
Data as of 4:43am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.62 0.09 0.51%
Apple Inc 111.78 -0.87 -0.77%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.48 1.91%
Intel Corp 36.37 -0.65 -1.76%
Microsoft Corp 47.66 0.14 0.29%
Data as of Dec 19

Sections

New York Magazine reporter Jessica Pressler, who has been caught up in controversy this past week, will not be moving on to a new job at Bloomberg News. More

Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More

Forums in dark corners of the web sell the kinds of hacks that befell Sony. More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

The income of the top 1% jumped significantly in 2012, far outpacing inflation. Not only did this group make a larger share of the country's income, their share of total taxes also jumped from 35% to 38%. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.