Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Rise
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected jobless claims to total 460,000.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average increased 6,000 to 473,750, while continuing claims rose 6,000 to 4.617 million. A year ago, initial jobless claims totaled 656,000, the four-week moving average was at 632,500, and continuing claims totaled 5.065 million.
Economists view the four-week average as a better indicator of unemployment conditions, as it smooths out anomalies for strikes, holidays and other idiosyncratic events.
Economists also monitor the continuing claims stat because it provides a snapshot of how long it will take the typical person to find comparable employment once he or she has sustained a job loss. In general, continuing claims above 3 million reflect a slack labor market and point to extended job searches.
For the past two weeks, initial claims have moved in the wrong direction -- higher -- and if the pattern persists it's something that policy makers will have to address. Jobless claims had trended lower prior to the start of 2010, including a drop of 40,000 claims in one week, providing hope for policy makers and job seekers alike. However, a retrenchment in the past two months has increased worries about the employment situation. Investors will need to see the negative pattern reversed soon to eliminate concerns about a possible double-dip in the U.S. economy and a further rise in the already-high 9.7% unemployment rate.