Unemployment Claims Edge Higher

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose modestly last week, the government said Thursday.

The figure still came in below analysts’ expectations.

There were 434,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Jan. 2, up 1,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised 433,000, the Labor Department said.

A consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected claims to jump to 440,000.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims totaled 450,250, down 10,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 460,500. The average figure has dropped more than 30% since it peaked last April.

“At a minimum, any deterioration in the labor market has diminished and the declining trend of jobless claims reinforces the possibility of a decisive return of job growth as early as the spring of 2010,” said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com.

Continuing claims: The government said 4,802,000 people filed continuing claims in the week ended Dec. 26, the most recent data available. That’s 179,000 down from the preceding week’s unrevised 4,981,000 claims.

The 4-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 95,250 to 5,005,750 from the previous week’s revised 5,101,000.

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