Initial Claims Dip, Lines Remain Long

May 30, 2002 ( - Although the number of Americans seeking initial unemployment benefits fell for the second straight week, workers appear to be staying unemployed longer.

Department of Labor (DOL) data reveals that 410,000 Americans filed for initial claims during the week ending May 25, down from a revised 422,000 the week before. That reading was roughly in line with the 409,000 predicted by economists polled by Reuters – and the lowest reading since March 16.

However, the latest DOL figures also mark the tenth consecutive week over the 400,000 mark, which is considered a recessionary indicator.

The four-week moving average, considered a better measure of the unemployment situation since it smoothes out weekly fluctuations, fell 3,000 to 418,500, according to DoL figures.  The moving average also hit its lowest in two months.

However, in the bad news portion of the announcement, the number of people who already qualified for benefits jumped to 3.89 million in the week ending May 18 – the highest since January 1983. Economists say that is an indicator that it is taking longer for workers to find a new employer.