First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits showed a modest decrease in the week ended February 2nd, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report showed that initial jobless claims dipped to 366,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 371,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to fall to 360,000 from the 368,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Even with the modest decrease, jobless claims remain well above the five-year low of 330,000 set in the week ended January 19th.
At the same time, the Labor Department said its less volatile four-week moving average fell to 350,500, a decrease of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average of 352,750.
With the modest decrease, the four-week moving average fell to a nearly five-year low, hitting its lowest level since March of 2008.
Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said, "While that calculation may have been helped by milder-than-usual weather and seasonal adjustment problems in the first two of those four weeks -- when claims were 330K and 335K, respectively -- the trend looks no worse than flat."
Meanwhile, the report also showed that continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance rose to 3.224 million in the week ended January 26th from the preceding week's revised level of 3.216 million.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims rose to 3,211,000, an increase of 13,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,197,250.
Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing that U.S. employment increased by slightly less than expected in the month of January, although the report also showed notable upward revisions to the job growth in previous months.
The report showed that non-farm payroll employment increased by 157,000 jobs in January following an upwardly revised increase of 196,000 jobs in December.
Economists had been expecting employment to increase by about 165,000 jobs compared to the addition of 155,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
Along with the upward revision to the December job numbers, the report also showed that the increase in jobs in November was upwardly revised to 247,000 from 161,000.
Despite the continued job growth, the unemployment rate unexpectedly edged up to 7.9 percent in January from 7.8 percent in December. The increase surprised economists, who had expected to unemployment rate to dip to 7.7 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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