Unemployment claims top 400,000 for 8th straight week

@CNNMoney June 2, 2011: 8:42 AM ET
initial claims June 2, 2011

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits stayed above 400,000 for the eighth week in a row last week, a sign of continuing weakness in the labor market.

In the week ended May 28, 422,000 Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits, the Labor Department said Thursday.

While that marked a 6,000 decrease from the revised 428,000 initial claims filed the week before, it was worse than economists' expectations for 413,000 claims.

Economists use initial jobless claims as a way to gauge the strength of the job market, but for the last eight weeks, the number has stayed stubbornly high above the 400,000 mark.

Even in times of robust economic growth, it's not uncommon to have initial claims tally in the 200,000 to 300,000 range. But many economists say once that number is persistently in the 400,000s, job growth is probably too weak to put a dent in the unemployment rate.

Scary signs for jobs

The number of Americans filing for ongoing claims fell 1,000 to 3,711,000 in the week ended May 21, the latest data available.

Wisconsin, South Carolina, Massachusetts and California had the largest increases in initial claims during that week, citing layoffs in the services industry. Alabama and Oregon saw the biggest improvement.

Next up is the government's monthly jobs report due Friday. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney say they're expecting to see that 170,000 jobs were created in May and that the unemployment rate eased to 8.9% from 9% in April. To top of page

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