Jobless Claim Decreases End With Unexpectedly Steep Hike

February 20, 2003 ( - Two weeks of declines in the number of Americans lining up for first-time jobless benefits ended last week as the figure took an unexpectedly steep jump.

According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), initial unemployment rose 21,000 from a revised 381,000 to a seasonally adjusted 402,000 for the week ended February 15. The four-week moving average, seen by many as a more reliable guide to the health of the job market because it irons out short-term fluctuations, rose to 394,750, an increase of 4,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 390,000.

The latest report was worse than the 382,000 initial claims expected by analysts in a regular poll. Many economists view claims above the 400,000 level as a sign of a stagnant employment market.

The DoL reported claims for the February 8 week were better than expected with an 18,000 decline (See  Jobless Claims Turn in Second Straight Drop ).