Jobless Claims Down, But Not Much

May 9, 2002 ( - The number of Americans signing up for unemployment benefits declined last week, but not as much as expected, and workers appear to be staying unemployed.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 411,000 for the week ended May 4, a tad higher than the 405,000 initial claims anticipated by Wall Street economists in a Reuters poll. 

It was the seventh week in a row that jobless claims remained above the 400,000 level considered a recessionary indicator by analysts.  However, it was the lowest reading for the measure since March 16, and was the third consecutive weekly decline in jobless claims.

The report noted that the number of workers seeking extended benefits under the new economic stimulus bill declined, but also noted that jobless workers don’t appear to be going back to work.  In fact, the number of continued claims hit its highest level in more than 19 years, rising by 61,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.8 million for the week ended April 27, the most recent week the data were available.

The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, considered more reliable because it irons out weekly fluctuations, decreased to 428,000 last week from 436,500.  However, it remained above 400,000 for the sixth week in a row.