WASHINGTON Feb 21 The number of Americans filing
new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected
last week, but still remained at levels consistent with a steady
improvement in labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased
20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the Labor Department
said on Thursday. The prior week's claims figure was revised to
show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time
applications to rise to 355,000. The increase in claims last
week pushed them toward the upper end of their range for this
A blizzard that hit the East Coast late in the first week of
February could have exaggerated the drop in claims for the week
ended Feb. 9.
A Labor Department analyst said claims for California and
Virginia had been estimated, as well as figures for Hawaii and
the District of Columbia.
Last week's data covered the survey period for the February
nonfarm payrolls report. Claims were up 27,000 between the
January and February survey periods.
But this probably does not suggest any material change in
the pace of job growth given that claims been very volatile
since January because of difficulties smoothing the data for
Employers added 157,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, a
pace that is expected to have held in February.
The four-week moving average for new claims, a better
measure of labor market trends, increased 8,000 to 360,750.
Job gains remain far less than the at least 250,000 per
month over a sustained period that economists say is needed to
significantly reduce the ranks of unemployed. The unemployment
rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 7.9 percent in January.
High unemployment prompted the Federal Reserve last year to
launch an open-ended bond buying program that it said it would
keep up until it saw a substantial improvement in the outlook
for the labor market.
But minutes of the U.S. central bank's Jan. 29-30 meeting
released on Wednesday suggested it might have to slow or stop
asset purchases because of the concerns over the costs of the
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular
state programs after an initial week of aid rose 11,000 to 3.15
million in the week ended Feb. 9.
So-called continuing claims have not changed much since late