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2013 to date U.S. seasonal adjusted initial claim

by SHENG Xin

Initial jobless claims have been trending downward, despite weekly fluctuation


Initial job claims continue downward trend

by Xin SHENG
May 23, 2013

The numbers of Americans filling initial claims for unemployment benefits declined a bit more than expected last week, offering more evidence that the nation’s economy is slowly recovering.

In the week ended May 18, first-time U.S. initial jobless claims eased by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 from last week’s revised 363,000, according to a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 340,000 new filings was a slightly better performance than the 345,000 claims that economists surveyed by Bloomberg had been expecting.

Thursday’s upbeat report helped calm some concerns about the labor market that had surfaced last week, after initial jobless claimes unexpectedly surged by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, rising at the fastest pace in six months.

Experts said the latest report, which continued a long downward trend in claims, showed the job market remains relatively healthy -- even though job cuts related to the federal “sequestration” are starting to take a toll.

“Today’s report remained consistent with our expectation that underlying improvement in labor market conditions will allow for continued respectable job growth despite significant fiscal contraction. ” Nathan Janzen, an economist at RBC Economics, noted in a report.

“While we still believe payroll growth will moderate between the first and second quarters as fiscal tightening weighs on the economy,” stated Daniel Silver, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co, “the claims data suggest that the weakening in the labor market will not be very severe.”

Jeffrey Herzog, senior economist of Oxford Economics Ltd, cautioned in an interview that the initial claim data don’t necessarily provide a full picture of where the labor market is heading.  

Because the weekly claims reports tend to fluctuate, many economists prefer to look at the four-week moving average, which dampens volatility. In the latest week, the report said, the four-week average declined by 500, to 339,500.

Continuing claims—those from people who have been receiving benefits for at least two weeks—dropped 112,000 to 2,912,000 during the week ending May 11, from the previous week’s revised level of 3,024,000, the Labor Department report said.