Surprise Jump for Jobless Claims

September 12, 2002 ( - A week after posting a drop in unemployment claims, the jobless figure unexpectedly soared to the highest level since April.

US Department of Labor (DoL) data show a 19,000 increase from a revised 407,000 to 426,000 for the week ending September 7 – the largest number of people applying for jobless benefits since the 427,000 level seen April 20.

This follows an 8,000-claim dip for the week ending August 31 to 403,000 from a revised figure of 411,000 the previous week — the first decrease since the first week of August.

The four-week moving average, considered a more reliable measure of labor conditions because it irons out short-term fluctuations, rose to 409,500 last week, the government said.

Thursday’s jobless figures took economists by surprise. Economists polled by Reuters had been calling for a small drop to 401,000.

 But the DoL said that seasonal factors, with the shortened Labor Day holiday work week, could account for volatility in the latest figures.

In a measure of how long it is taking people to find new jobs, the number of workers remaining on state jobless aid rose by 38,000 to 3.6 million, for the week ended August 31, the latest week for which the data were available.

The government also recently reported that the US unemployment rate dipped to a five-month low in August.