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Initial Unemployment Claims Dip But Remain Elevated

First time claims for unemployment insurance remained over 380,000 for the third straight week, the highest levels of the year, the ""Labor Department"":http://www.dol.gov/ said Thursday.

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According to the report there were 388,000 initial claims, down from the revised 389,000 one week earlier. The prior week's report was adjusted upward by 3,000.

The last time initial claims topped 380,000 for three weeks in a row was the last two weeks of December 2011 and the first week of January this year.

Economists had expected initial claims would decrease to 375,000.

Continuing claims, reported on a one-week lag, increased 3,000 to 3,315,000 for the week ended April 14, the second straight weekly increase. The previous week's report of 3,297,000 individuals receiving benefits was revised up to 3,312,000.

Continuing claims data though are highly volatile, affected not only by hiring but by individuals who lose benefits because they stop looking for work. The last time continuing claims increased for two straight weeks was in mid- February.

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The Labor Department routinely revises data in this report.

The four week moving average for initial claims jumped to 381,750, up 6,250, the highest level since the beginning of January. The four week average for continuing claims dropped 9,750 to 3,311,750.

Initial claims ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô despite some bumps ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô had been slowly trending downward. The recent stretch of elevated filings recalls a similar trend in early 2011 when first time claims began to increase after a slow, steady decline. Coupled with the report showing a disappointing increase in payroll jobs, the initial claims data suggest excruciatingly slow labor market recovery may have stalled.

The revised initial claims data cover the same ""reference"" week used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in compiling the monthly employment situation report. From mid-March to mid-April ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô the reference weeks ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô initial claims jumped 25,000 and the less volatile four week moving average increased 7,000. The employment report for April will be released May 4.

The number of people collecting benefits under all unemployment insurance programs, reported on a two-week lag, fell 87,160 to 6,677,959. That tally reflects changes in unemployment insurance programs, capping the number of weeks benefits would be paid, enacted when Congress approved the extension of the payroll tax suspension. According to the latest BLS report, 12.67 million people were officially counted as unemployed.

According to the Labor Department detail, also reported on a one-week lag, the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending April 14 were in New York (+3,352), California (+3,060), Georgia (+2,179), Florida (+2,048), and North Carolina (+1,923), while the largest decreases were in Washington (-5,700), Pennsylvania (-5,362), Oregon (-3,649), Indiana (-3,341) and Maryland (-2,865).

About Author: Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman is the former Senior Economist at Fox Business Network. He is now Managing Director and Senior Economist at Economics Analytics Research. He can be heard each Friday on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM Radio 124.
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