US jobless claims jump to highest level in 6 weeks
BY CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER | AP Economics Writer May 16, 2013 8:02AM
The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the most since late March. The jump comes after applications fell to a five-year low. | AP Photo
Updated: May 16, 2013 8:02AM
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the most since late March. The jump comes after applications fell to a five-year low.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose just 1,250 to 339,250, a level consistent with modest hiring.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. The big increase could mean companies are cutting more jobs, possibly because of steep government spending cuts that kicked in March 1. Labor officials said there were no special circumstances that caused the spike.
Applications tend to fluctuate sharply from week to week and economists typically focus more on the four-week average. That remains 9 percent lower than it was six months ago.
The job market has improved over the past six months. The economy has added an average of 208,000 jobs a month since November. That’s up from only 138,000 a month in the previous six months.
Still, much of the job gains have come from fewer layoffs — not increased hiring. Layoffs fell in January to the lowest level on records dating back 12 years and have risen only modestly since then. Overall hiring remains far below pre-recession levels.
The unemployment rate has also fallen to a four-year low, although it remains high at 7.5 percent.