New claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly showed a modest increase in the week ended May 26th, according to figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.
Initial jobless claims came in at a seasonally adjusted level of 383,000 for the week, up 10,000 from the previous week's revised level of 373,000.
The level of initial claims was higher than the predictions of most economists, who had expected new claims to hold steady at the 370,000 level initially reported for the previous week.
The four-week moving average of new unemployment claims, a figure that eases some of the week-to-week volatility, showed a slight increase of 3,750, edging up to 374,500 from the previous week's revised average of 370,750.
Labor Department officials cautioned that, as is typical for weeks that include a Federal Holiday on Monday, a number of states either failed to report or provided incomplete data for their new unemployment claims.
In particular, the states of California, Virginia and Wyoming provided estimated new claims levels to the Labor Department, while Hawaii and Oregon's levels were estimated in Washington.
Labor Department officials said that seasonal factors had predicted a 0.7 percent increase in the number of new claims for the week. However, the actual data showed a 3.2 percent increase, resulting in the rise by the seasonally adjusted claims.
The total number of people claiming unemployment insurance, a figure known as continuing claims, fell 36,000 to 3.242 million for the week ended May 19th, coming in below the 3.25 million predicted by most economists.
However, the previous week's revised level of continuing claims, 3.278 million, was up from the 3.26 million initially reported.
The four-week average of continuing unemployment claims came in at 3,263,750, a decrease of 12,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,275,750.
As it has for several weeks in a row, the decline by the four-week average of continuing claims brings the figure to its lowest level since early August 2008.
Although the new unemployment claims came in higher than predicted, the total level remains below the 400,000 benchmark set by most economists as crucial to bringing down the overall unemployment rate.
The new claims levels have remained below that benchmark since mid-October 2011.
More detailed data on job creation in the U.S. economy and the unemployment rate is due to be released by the Labor Department on Friday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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