Jobless Total Shoots Up by 17,000

February 5, 2004 ( - The number of jobless Americans lining up for initial unemployment benefits shot up last week, according to a government report.

The US Department of Labor (DoL) said that for the week ending January 31, the claims total was 356,000, an increase of 17,000 from the previous week’s revised 339,000 (See  Jobless Claims Take a Dip ).

The four-week moving average – closely watched because it irons out short-term volatility – was flat at 345,250, unchanged from the previous week, the DoL said.

Finally, the number of jobless Americans forced to cling to the unemployment rolls because of difficulty finding work was also flat for the week ending January 24 at 3.12 million.

Labor Department official said inclement weather in the Midwest and Southeast had affected the numbers. The official said he could not quantify the impact but said that layoffs can increase during bad weather in industries like construction.

The reports will get close scrutiny ahead of Friday’s release of the DoL’s January report on employment. Partly encouraged by recent falls in jobless claims, economists are forecasting non-farm payrolls to increase 150,000 and for the unemployment rate to stay at 5.7%.

Analysts were expecting claims for the January 24 week to dip to 340,000 from the originally reported 342,000.