Has everyone else caught on by now? The numbers are always unexpected...hmmmm.
WASHINGTON – The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months. The surge is evidence of how volatile the job market remains, even as the economy grows.
Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up by 25,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the first increase in five weeks and the biggest jump since a gain of 40,000 in February.
The total was the highest since new claims reached 480,000 on April 10. It also pushed the average for the last four weeks to 453,500.
"Although no one expects this volatile series to go in one direction every single week, this is clearly a disappointment," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
Stocks slid at the opening bell as investors' already bleak view of the world economy worsened with another drop in the euro and the disappointing U.S. employment news. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 250 points in early afternoon trading.
In a separate report, a private research group said its index of leading economic indicators dipped slightly in April. It was the first decline in more than a year. Six of the 10 components on the Conference Board's index deteriorated. Among them: U.S. residents filed fewer applications to build homes; vendors were slower in delivering supplies to companies; the unemployed filed more claims for jobless aid; and consumers' confidence dropped.
Lawmakers responded Thursday to the persistently high jobless rate by announcing a deal to extend expanded unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed through the end of the year. Laid off workers would also continue to get subsidies to buy health insurance through the COBRA program. House leaders plan to vote on the bill Friday, with the Senate voting next week.
Employers are hiring again, but not at levels needed to make a dent in the unemployment rate, which increased in April to 9.9 percent. An improving economy has lured those who had given up looking for work back into the labor market. The jump in the unemployment rate came even though payrolls rose last month by 290,000 jobs, the biggest gain in four years.
David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York, said he believed the unemployment rate would hold at 9.9 percent in May while payroll jobs could increase as much as 250,000. He said that figure would include an expected 150,000 temporary government workers hired to conduct the census.
After peaking at 651,000 in March 2009, weekly jobless claims fell rapidly through much of last year. But this year the improvements have leveled out.
Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said one reason the improvements have stalled is that small businesses are having trouble getting loans. They create half of the new jobs in the country.
The Labor Department said the number of people receiving jobless benefits fell by 40,000 to 4.63 million for the week ending May 8.
However, that figure does not include unemployed workers who have exhausted their regular 26 weeks of benefits. An additional 5.3 million workers are receiving extended benefits paid for by the federal government for the week ending May 1.
The extended benefits have added as many as 73 weeks of unemployment on top of the 26 weeks customarily provided by the states. But jobs have been scarce for so long that many of those out of work will soon run out of the extended benefits.
For the week ending May 8, 35 states and territories saw increases in applications for new jobless benefits and 18 saw declines.
AP Business Writer Tali Arbel contributed to this report from New York.
Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself.
They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone
under independence. -- George Washington
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