WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits probably surged above 543,000 last week, according to a Gallup poll, reversing the modest improvement seen in the prior two weeks.
Gallup bases this prediction on its net hiring activity measure, which fell to 0.0 points in the week ending December 7 from 6.9 points in the previous week. The Labor Department will release its weekly jobless claims data on Thursday.
“While a number of variables make it hard to predict the exact number ... Gallup figures suggest jobless claims will surge, surpassing the seasonally adjusted 543,000 of the week ending November 15,” said Dennis Jacobe, Gallup’s chief economist.
The 543,000 reading was the highest in 16-years. Since then, new applications for jobless benefits have trended lower, but largely remained above half a million, a level economists said was consistent with a distressed labor market.
Analysts polled by Reuters forecast new claims at 525,000 for the week ended December 6.
In the most recent data for the week ended Nov 29, new unemployment claims totaled 509,000 but the four-week moving average of new, a better gauge of underlying labor trends, jumped to 524,500, a 26-year high.
The Gallup poll also suggested that this figure likely increased last week.
“Gallup’s hiring measure simply provides quantitative confirmation of repeated anecdotal evidence that jobs are disappearing at an unbelievable pace,” said Jacobe, adding that the impact of the unfolding jobs recession was yet to be fully realized on Main Street.
The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression has pushed the U.S. economy into recession, prompting employers to aggressively cut jobs.
Government data last week showed U.S. employers cut a hefty 533,000 jobs in November, the worst in 34 years, driving the jobless rate to 6.5 percent — the highest since 1993.
Gallup’s net new hiring activity measure was initiated in January 2008 and is aimed at assessing U.S. job creation or elimination based on aggregated interviews with a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 workers each week about hiring and firing activity at their workplaces.
Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama