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Initial jobless claims jump a week after falling to five-year low

January 31, 2013|By Jim Puzzanghera
  • Initial jobless claims rose by 38,000 last week from the preceding week's level of 330,000. Above, a table at a job fair in Arlington, Va.
Initial jobless claims rose by 38,000 last week from the preceding week's… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )

WASHINGTON -- Reversing a recent downward trend, new jobless claims jumped by 38,000 last week but remained in the ballpark for moderate growth in the labor market ahead of Friday's unemployment report.

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first-time increased to 368,000 in the week ending Saturday, up from the previous week's level of 330,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That figure was the lowest in five years.

Economists had speculated the sharp drop earlier in January could have been related to the difficulties of making seasonal adjustments after the holidays and at the start of a new year. Last week's increase could be offsetting overstated decreases.

The more stable four-week average was 352,000 claims, a slight increase from the previous week.

That level is consistent with moderate job growth, which is what economists expect Friday's January unemployment report will show.

Forecasters predict that the economy added about 165,000 jobs in January, an improvement over December's 155,000. The unemployment rate is projected to stay at 7.8%.

Those figures would be consistent with the monthly survey from payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc., which was released Wednesday. It said the private sector added about 192,000 jobs this month, up from a revised 185,000 in December.

Still, the increase in weekly jobless claims is another somewhat disheartening. It follows Wednesday's news that the economy unexpectedly shrank at a 0.1% annual rate in the final three months of 2012.

Economists said the contraction, the first since 2009, was an anomaly driven in part by fiscal cliff fears. The economy continues to grow, though at a sluggish pace, they said.

Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities, said the new jobless data was another sign that the economy is "stuck on a shallow growth trajectory."

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