Jobless Aid Applications Head North

January 23, 2003 ( - The number of people applying for jobless benefits headed north last week after two consecutive weeks of declines, the government said.

According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), applications for unemployment benefits jumped by 18,000 to 381,000 for the week ending January 18, up from a revised 363,000 for the prior week. The four-week moving average – a much watched indicator because it smoothes out short-term volatility – was 386,500. That was a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 388,500.

Thursday’s report was close to predictions from economists participating in Reuters’ regular survey. The poll had called for 386,000 claims for the January 18 week. The latest government report is also in keeping with recent signals from the trends in the jobless reports that the US job market remains stagnant and that any employment recovery has yet to take hold.

The DoL cautioned that the latest figures might be distorted by a holiday-shortened processing week – the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was on January 20 – which gave the department and the states fewer days to calculate the number of claims.

For the week ending January 11, the DoL said benefits dipped by 32,000 to an unrevised total of 360,000 (See  Jobless Claims Continue Post-Holiday Drop ).