WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, according to a government report on Thursday that suggested hiring in August was steady but not robust.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 408,000, the Labor Department said.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 400,000. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 399,000 from the previously reported 395,000.
The claims data covers the survey week for August nonfarm payrolls. Claims dropped by 14,000 between the July and August survey periods, but there are fears that financial markets turbulence could have slowed hiring this month.
Employers added 117,000 jobs in July, a significant improvement from the prior two months’ combined 99,000 gain.
Fears of a second recession, the loss of the nation’s top-notch AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s and the sovereign debt crisis in Europe have inflicted damage on global stock markets. That has hurt consumer confidence and may make businesses more reluctant to hire more workers.
The rise in jobless claims, which took them just above the 400,000 threshold, is unlikely to change perceptions that the economy will dodge another downturn. Claims below the 400,000 mark are usually associated with a stable labor market.
So far, data ranging from retail sales to industrial production suggest the economy found some momentum early in the third quarter after barely growing in the first half of the year.
A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, fell 3,500 to 402,500.
The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid increased 7,000 to 3.70 million in the week ended August 6.
The number of Americans on emergency unemployment benefits fell 27,704 to 3.13 million in the week ended July 30, the latest week for which data is available.
A total of 7.34 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during that period under all programs, down 143,737 from the prior week. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Editing by Andrea Ricci)