Jobless Claims Tick Up

March 25, 2004 ( - The number of out-of-work Americans lining up for first-time jobless benefits ticked up by a hair last week, but was still squarely in the ballpark expected for a recovering employment picture.

According to a U.S. Department of Labor report, claims for the week ending March 20 notched up by 1,000 to 339,000. Claims for the week prior represented the lowest since before the 2001 recession kicked off.

Meanwhile, the closely watched four-week claims moving average, which smoothes out short-term fluctuations, dropped for a fourth straight week to 341,500 from 344,500 – the lowest since 336,500 were registered in the January 27, 2001 week.

The number of people forced to cling to the jobless rolls because of difficulty in finding work likewise dropped 46,000 to 3 million in the week ended March 13 – the lowest since July 21, 2001.

Economists participating in Reuters weekly poll had been expecting claims to dip to 335,000 from the originally reported 336,000.