Initial Jobless Claims Down 16,000 Last Week, Back Near Five-Year Low

Andrew Klips |

The Labor Department said Thursday that fewer Americans than expected filed for first-time jobless benefits for the week ended April 20, 2013, indicating that the labor market is rebounding after a mild slump in recent weeks. Less optimistically, the reduction in weekly claims could have been skewed by layoffs related to the Easter holiday and breaks from school that don’t always fall during the same week each year.

This is a notoriously volatile time of year for initial jobless claims due to vacations and holidays. A Labor Department spokesman said that the weekly swings should begin to level going forward.

In its weekly report, the government agency said that initial filings fell by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000. Meanwhile, the previous week’s figure was upwardly revised from 352,000 to 355,000.

The latest reported showed claims to be the second-lowest in 2013 (just behind the week of March 9) and back down near levels in January 2008.

Economists were expecting a much smaller decrease in claims, predicting 351,000 filings for the week.

The four-week moving average, a less-volatile barometer of labor trends, decreased by 4,500 from an upwardly revised 362,000 the week earlier.

Continuing claims, or those people already receiving unemployment benefits, declined by 93,000 to 3.0 million in the week ended April 6. Continuing claims are reported at a two-week lag.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending April 6 was 5,071,050, a decrease of 81,605 from the previous week. Total beneficiaries for all programs are reported with a three-week lag. Compared to the same week in 2012, the total number of beneficiaries dropped by 1,612,215.

In the latest week, California (+24,303) reported the largest increase in new claims, followed by Texas (+3,050) and Florida (+2,623). On the other side of the coin, New York (-14,113), New Jersey (-4,204) and Ohio (-3,036) paced the states with declining claims.

Wall Street is responding favorably to the better-than-expected claims data, continuing a recovery this week after a tumultuous week prior. One hour into the trading day, the Dow Jones is ahead by 60 points, the S&P 500 is up by 10 points and the tech-heavy Nasdaq is green by 26 points.

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