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WASHINGTON - More Americans than projected filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, reflecting the difficulty the government has adjusting the figures around the Easter holiday and spring break at schools.
Jobless claims rose by 28,000 to 385,000 in the week ended March 30, the highest since Nov. 24, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 353,000. Before adjusting for seasonal variations, claims fell by almost 1,600.
The Easter holiday falls on different weeks from year to year, making it more difficult for the government to adjust the data, a Labor Department spokesman said as the numbers were released. Further progress in the labor market that includes a pickup in the pace of hiring depends on faster economic growth.
“Claims can bounce around from week to week at this time of the year,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. Moody’s was the best forecaster of jobless claims over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “Layoffs aren’t the issue here, it’s about the pace of hiring. Growth is okay, but it isn’t strong enough to entice businesses to go out and hire aggressively.”
The claims week included Good Friday on March 29, which was earlier than the last four years. There was nothing unusual in the latest jobless claims figures, though data for the Virgin Islands and California were estimated, the Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were being released.
The four-week average of claims rose to 354,250 from 343,000.
A report tomorrow from the Labor Department may show employers added 195,000 workers to payrolls in March after 236,000 the month before, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey. The jobless rate is projected to hold at 7.7 percent.
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from claims of 330,000 to 400,000.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 8,000 to 3.06 million in the week ended March 23.
The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments decreased by about 106,688 to 1.8 million in the week ended March 16.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, held at 2.4 percent in the week ended March 23, today’s report showed.