Jobless Claims Back Up After Declines

January 2, 2003 ( - The number of people seeking jobless benefits rose by an unexpectedly high 13,000 last week, following two straight weeks of decline, according to the US Department of Labor (DoL).

For the week ending December 28, 403,000 people filed for jobless benefits, up from the 390,000 people filing in the previous week. That was more than the 391,000 expected – and well above the previous week’s original tally of 378,000. The DoL’s latest report follows jobless claims figures for the  week of December 21 , which were down 60,000.

According to the DoL, the latest four-week moving average, a more reliable gauge because it smoothes out week-to-week fluctuations, rose by 11,250 to 418,750, the highest reading since late September.

However, both the Labor Department and economists cautioned about reading too much into the results, especially during holiday-shortened reporting weeks and at a time when bad weather could also serve to distort weekly jobs data.

Loss of Benefits For Some

A congressional stalemate last week also saw as many as 800,000 unemployed Americans  lose their federal unemployment benefits  on December 28.

Both house of Congress adjourned for the year without extending the federal benefits, meaning that 750,000 to 800,000 unemployed Americans saw benefits cut off on December 28, while an additional 95,000 jobless workers will exhaust their state benefits each week afterward.

To date, approximately 1 million people have already exhausted all of their benefits.

President Bush now is urging Congress to extend unemployment benefits soon after reconvening next month. In his radio address the week of December 16, the President said the extension of benefitsshould be the “first order of business” for the new Congress.