First-time Jobless Claims Fell More Than Expected

August 8, 2002 ( - Despite increasing talk about a "double dip" recession, the nation's employment picture is signaling a slowly improving labor market with fewer than expected initial jobless claims.

According to the US Department of Labor (DoL) the number of people filing first-time jobless claims fell by 15,000 or 3.8% to 376,000 for the week ending August 3. That was well below the 397,000 in the same period last year.

The latest numbers even surprised economists who participate in a regular Reuters poll. The economists predicted 384,000 first-time claims.

Never miss a story — sign up for PLANSPONSOR newsletters to keep up on the latest retirement plan benefits news.

The four-week moving average, considered a better gauge of employment conditions because it irons out weekly fluctuations, declined to a seasonally adjusted 379,000, the lowest level since March of last year, the DoL said.

The latest jobless report had one dark storm cloud: The number of Americans continuing on state jobless benefits rose by 51,000 to 3.5 million. That was near the level seen after the September 11 attacks.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending July 27 were in California, Indiana, Washington, Iowa, and Idaho, while the largest decreases were in North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, and Alabama.