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Jobless claims in surprise rise

Initial filings jump unexpectedly to 576,000 in latest week, a continuing sign of labor market weakness. Continuing claims also increase.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment insurance rose last week, the government said Thursday, surprising economists.

There were 576,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Aug. 15, up from a revised 561,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said in a weekly report.

A consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected only 550,000 new claims.

"It's not not all that surprising to see claims bounce back," said Mark Vitner, economist at Wells Fargo. "The labor market continues to face a lot of stress."

The 4-week moving average of initial claims was 570,000, up 4,250 from the previous week's revised average of 565,750.

Continuing claims: The government said 6,241,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended August 8, the most recent data available. That's up 2,000 from the preceding week's revised 6,239,000 claims.

The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell to 6,266,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 6,268,500.

The initial claims number identifies those filing for their first week of unemployment benefits. Continuing claims reflect people filing each week after their initial claim until the end of their standard benefits, which usually last 26 weeks.

The figures do not include those who have moved to state or federal extensions, nor people whose benefits have expired.

State-by-state data: Two states reported initial claims fell by more than 1,000 in the week ended July 11, the most recent data available. Claims in California fell by 5,635, and Michigan's dipped by 1,490.

Ten states reported claims increased by more than 1,000. Tennessee reported the most new claims, at 2,525, which the state said was due to layoffs in the transportation equipment, industrial machinery, rubber/plastics and service industries.

Outlook: Vitner said he expects initial claims will rise back up to 600,000 a week.

"I don't know that we'll get back to the highs, but we'll start approaching them again," he said.

As companies continue to feel the crunch of the recession, they will be slow to hire again, but the mass layoffs seen in January and February have eased, Vitner noted.

"They'll simply not be replacing people people who are leaving jobs to retire, raise a family or go back to school," Vitner said. "They're holding off on every cost for as long as they can."  To top of page

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