Jobless claims hold up above 400,000 in most recent week, a troubling sign for an already weak labor market.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits dipped slightly but remained over 400,000, according to a government report.
There were 404,000 initial unemployment claims filed in the week ended Oct. 8, the Labor Department said Thursday, down 1,000 from the prior week's revised 405,000.
Economists had forecast initial claims to rise to 406,000, according to a consensus estimate compiled by Briefing.com.
"The pace of layoffs has nudged up a bit, but we are not seeing a new wave of job losses here," said Ian Shepherdson, Chief U.S. Economist for High Frequency Economics. "Hiring has probably deteriorated more than firings, though, so payrolls will remain soft, but this could have been much worse."
But the bigger picture is pretty bleak. New claims for unemployment benefits have stuck around or above 400,000 since early April, a level economists often say is too high to signal the unemployment rate will come down anytime soon.
The hardest hit states were California and North Carolina, which respectively saw an increase of more than 2,500 and 3,300 in initial claims in the week ended Oct. 1, the latest week available.
California said it was hit with layoffs in the fishing, agriculture and forestry industries while North Carolina had layoffs in the construction, transportation and warehouse industries.
Meanwhile, continuing claims -- which include people filing for the second week or more of benefits -- was 3,670,000, a decrease of 55,000 in the week ended Oct. 1, the most recent week for which the data is available.
The latest monthly job report from the government, issued last week, showed that hiring was stronger that expected in September. Employers added 103,000 jobs in the month. Nevertheless, economists say the economy needs to add at least 150,000 jobs a month just to keep pace with population growth.
With the unemployment rate standing at 9.1%, the bleak job market remains a front-and-center issue for the Obama administration. It also is likely to be an issue to weigh on his re-election campaign: Obama will likely enter the heart of the campaign season with unemployment above 8%.
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