US unemployment aid applications surge to 368,000

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 12, 2013 at 8:01 am •  Published: December 12, 2013
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 68,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the largest increase in more than a year.

The surge in first-time applications could be a troubling sign if it lasts. But it likely reflects the difficulty adjusting for delays after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose 6,000 to 328,750. That is close to pre-recession levels and generally a positive sign for job gains.

Applications had tumbled in recent weeks to nearly six-year lows, partly because of a late Thanksgiving holiday that may have distorted the government's seasonal adjustments. Economists believe this week's jump in claims was a dose of payback for those declines.

"What the seasonals give in one month they have to take back the next, hence today's number," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Applications for unemployment aid are a proxy for layoffs. A steady decline over the past year suggests that fewer Americans have lost their jobs. Economists will track the next few weeks closely to see if that trend is reversing, or if the surge is a temporary blip caused by seasonal adjustments.

The recent drop in layoffs has coincided with a pickup in hiring. The economy has added an average of 204,000 jobs a month from August through November, up from an average of 146,000 in May through July.



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