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Jobless claims bounce higher

Number of initial unemployment filings reverts to higher levels after one-week dropoff. Mass layoffs hit record high.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com contributing writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance rose last week, with the number of people collecting benefits overall climbing to a record 6.14 million, according to a U.S. government report released Thursday.

In the week ended April 18, there were 640,000 initial jobless claims filed, up from a revised 613,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said. There had been a sharp decline of 47,000 in the previous week.

Economists expected 639,000 new claims, according to a consensus survey by Briefing.com. The 4-week average of initial claims fell 4,250 to 646,750.

"The recent slowing in the rate of increase of claims looks more like a correction from a period of unsustainably rapid increases than the early signs of a real turning point," wrote Ian Shepherdson, economist at High Frequency Economics, in a research note.

He noted that claims as a proportion of the labor force remain well below peaks seen in the 1980s, asking, "What is to stop layoffs from rising at a slower pace for an extended period?"

In a sign that more people are having trouble finding work, a record 6,137,000 continued filing for unemployment insurance in the week ended April 11, the most recent data available. That's an increase of 93,000 from the previous week.

The 4-week average of continuing claims rose 142,500 to 5.94 million.

State highs and lows

Earlier this month, the government reported two million jobs were lost through March 2009, bringing the nation's unemployment rate to the 25-year high of 8.5%. The nation has lost 5.1 million jobs since the beginning of 2008.

The largest increases were in Florida, with 9,303; Pennsylvania, at 7,538; California, at 6,404; Wisconsin, with 3,611; and New York, 3,581. Those spikes were likely due to layoffs in the construction, trade, service and manufacturing industries, among others, the report said.

By contrast, 16 states had claims decrease by more than 1,000. Michigan reported 12,566 fewer claims, which a state-supplied comment attributed to fewer layoffs in the automobile industry.

Mass layoffs hit record high

The number of layoff announcements involving at least 50 workers rose in March to the highest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping records in 1995, the government said in a separate report Thursday.

There were 2,933 mass-layoff actions, up 164 from February, the report said.

Overall, the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits related to mass layoffs rose by 3,911 to 155,909. To top of page

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