Jobless Claims Climb Higher in New Year

More Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week than forecast, indicating that recent improvement in the job market may have simply been the result of an above average increase in temporary holiday hiring.

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In the week ended January 7, jobless claims climbed by 24,000 to 399,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. A Bloomberg News survey of 46 economists projected 375,000 claims.

The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls also rose, while the number of people receiving extended benefits declined.

Hiring picked up during the holiday season at delivery companies and retailers, but with jobless claims rising in the first week of the New Year, it seems that the increase in hiring gave way to an increase in dismissals.

Of course, claims figures are generally given to greater volatility during this time of year, as the government has trouble adjusting the data for the seasonal swings in employment. Today’s report also revised the previous week’s reported 372,000 jobless claims up to 375,000.

The Labor Department’s seasonal adjustment projected a 12 percent increase in claims during the first week of January, but instead, unadjusted applications climbed 19 percent.

“Seasonal volatility injects considerable uncertainty into projections of these data for another couple of weeks,” Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. in New York, said in a note this month.

The four-week moving average, considered a more accurate indicator of employment trends, increased to 381,750 last week from 374,000.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 19,000 in the week ended December 31 to 3.64 million. That number does not include those receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Americans who have used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments decreased in the week ended December 24 by about 48,500 to 3.45 million.

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