Jobless Queue Shrinks Slightly

January 22, 2004 ( - The number of Americans lining up for first-time jobless claims was nearly flat last week, with a scant 1,000 decrease to 341,000 from an adjusted 342,000 the week before.

The latest report was the second straight decrease (See   Jobless Claims Drop Erases Most of Recent Claims Gain ). The four-week moving average for the January 17 week – widely followed because it irons out short-term volatility – was down 3,250 from a revised 347,750 the week before.

Finally, the number of jobless workers forced to cling to the unemployment rolls because of difficulty finding work was up by 17,000 during the week ending January 10 to 3.14 million.

Economists in Reuters’ regular weekly poll had called for an increase to 347,000 claims for the January 17 week.

On Wednesday, there was an unusual public disagreement between federal agencies as US Treasury Secretary questioned recent government figures showing that the economy only managed to create 1,000 non-farm jobs during December – figures compiled and released by the US Department of Labor (See  Bush Official: December Jobs Data Wrong  ). During a radio interview, Snow contended that the number was too low and may have to be restated.