Jobless Claims Still Stuck Around 400,000 Mark

February 6, 2003 ( - Initial jobless benefit claims fell slightly last week, but there were still more people applying for the unemployment benefits than exepcted.

According to data from the US Department of Labor (DoL), i nitial jobless claims fell by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000 from a revised 402,000 for the week ending February 1.  But the four-week moving average, considered by many a more reliable measure of labor market conditions because it irons out short-term fluctuations, dropped 500 to 384,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 385,250..    

Economists polled by Reuters were calling for a 389,000 claims figure for the February 1 week.Last week, the jobless claims figure was up for the second week in a row (See  Jobless Claims Up for Second Week Running).

The latest report continued the recent trend of the jobless benefit number bouncing slightly above and slightly below the key 400,000 mark, yet another sign that the job-creating machinery in the US labor market is still largely moribund.

Analysts were eagerly awaiting Friday’s scheduled release of January’s unemployment rate.  Reuters’ survey of analysts forecast the report will show an increase of 70,000 in payrolls outside the farm sector after a tumble of 101,000 in December (See  December Jobless Rate Steady; Economy Losing Jobs) The unemployment rate is seen remaining steady at 6%.