According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), initial jobless claims rose to 441,000 for the week ending December 7, up from a revised 358,000.Officials cautioned that volatility following the Thanksgiving holiday helped drive the gain.
The four-week moving average, closely watched because it irons out weekly fluctuations, also headed north last week, coming in at 387,250. That was up 10,000 from the previous week’s 377,250, the DoL said.
Last week’s increase followed three straight decreases including the November 30 report, which was the lowest since the February 17, 2001 week.(See Jobless Claims Still Dropping For Third Week).
Economists had taken comfort in the fact that the claims figure had stayed below 400,000 for so long. Data coming in above that mark is widely thought to signal a recessionary economy.
The December 7 report not only ended the string of consecutive claims declines, it also was way above where many economists participating in Reuters’ regular poll had predicted. The average estimate was 382,000, although Bear Stearns, JP Morgan, and Merrill Lynch estimated that new jobless claims would rise to 400,000, Reuters said.
The government’s latest unemployment rate figure also increased from 5.7% in October to 6% in November. (See November’s Unemployment Shoots Up ).
The one bright spot was thatAmericans who have been jobless may be finding work, according to the DoL. The number of continued claims for the week ended November 30, the most recent week the data were available, fell for the second week in a row. They dropped by 165,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.3 million, the lowest level since September 2001, the DoL said.