Jobless Claims Tick Up by 11,000

December 4, 2003 ( - Domestic jobless claims ticked up unexpectedly last week, but the employment picture still pointed to an albeit halting recovery.

According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), claims for the week ending November 29 popped up by 11,000 to 365,000 from a revised 354,000 the week before. The climb in state claims nudged the four-week moving average, closely watched because it irons out week-to-week volatility, by 3,000 to 362,500 from 359,500 in the prior week.

Despite the claims increase, it was still notable that the November 29 total remained below the key 400,000 benchmark for the ninth straight week, pointing to a budding revival in the labor market (See    Jobless Claims Figure Drops 11,000  ). This was the longest stretch since an eight-week run in early 2002 that stayed below a benchmark economists widely regard as the dividing line between an improving and eroding job picture.

Economists also cautioned against reacting too strongly to the latest report, saying that holiday season hiring and firing trends tend to be more volatile than at other times of the year.

The DoL said the number of people already on state jobless benefit rolls rose 44,000 to 3.39 million in the November 22 week, the latest period for which so-called continued claims data are available.

Analysts participating in Reuters regular survey had expected claims to dip to 350,000 in the November 29 week from the 351,000 originally reported in the prior week.

Economists and financial markets are likely to be more focused on Friday’s key employment report from DoL as they await concrete signs that hiring – which has long lagged the recovery in the broader economy – is finally gaining steam.

The unemployment rate for November is expected to remain unchanged at 6% (See    October Jobs Report Sure to Prompt Smiling Faces ) with the economy generating 150,000 new jobs outside the farm sector.