Blackout Carryover Pushes up Jobless Totals

August 28, 2003 ( - Unemployment benefit claims ticked up a bit last week - mostly because a few thousand unfortunate souls couldn't file their applications during the August 14 blackout.

According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), the jobless claims queue rose 3,000 to 394,000 from a revised 391,000 for the week ending August 23.   A DoL spokesman told Reuters that 2,000 to 3,000 of them were carryovers because they couldn’t be processed during the power failure that gripped much of the Northeast US and parts of Canada.

The four-week moving average – closely watched because it irons out short-term fluctuations – was up 500 to 396,250 in the August 23 week from 395,750 the week before. Even with the increase, the latest report marked the fourth consecutive week in which the moving average was below the key 400,000 level – viewed as a sign of an improving job market.

The number of people forced to cling to the jobless rolls was up 26,000 to 3.65 million for the August 16 week over the earlier week’s revised 3.63 million.

Once again, the analysts in Reuters’ weekly Wall Street economists’ poll were off in their claims predictions for the August 23 week, having called for a 390,000 total.

DoL officials announced earlier that the claims total for the week ending August 16 dropped 17,000 to 386,000 from a revised 403,000 (See  Jobless Totals Take a Plunge ).