Job seekers speak with recruiters at a recent job fair at Cal State Dominguez… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
WASHINGTON -- The American labor market showed further signs of weakening as the number of workers filing jobless claims went back up to their highest level in nearly three months.
The Labor Department said Thursday that there were 386,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week. Although that was down 2,000 from the prior week, filings for that first week of April were revised sharply higher. And that bumped up the more reliable four-week moving average to 374,750 -- the most since late January.
Labor Department officials didn't explain what led to the unexpectedly big upward adjustments in the data for early April, but the recent reversal of improving claims data lines up with other reports from business groups and the government that suggest a loss of some momentum in the job market.
Employers nationwide added 120,000 net new jobs in March, only about half of the preceding three months. Although jobless claims are more an indication of layoffs than hiring, Thursday's report nonetheless will factor into a somewhat lower projection for job growth in April and possibly later this spring as well.
"The string of disappointing data releases continues this morning with a higher than expected claims report," Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities, said in a note to clients. As such, he said, April's job gains are likely to be between 125,000 and 175,000 -- numbers that aren't likely to bring down the unemployment rate or build a lot of confidence in the economy.