Initial Jobless Claims Jump to 360,000, Most Since March

WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Initial jobless claims unexpectedly jumped to a six-week high of 360,000 last week, after declining to a post-recession low this month, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number of people filing for the first time for unemployment benefits was up 32,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 328,000. Analysts had expected a more modest rise to about 330,000 claims.

The increase was the biggest one-week jump since claims spiked by 88,000 in early November in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

The number of new jobless claims can vary widely week-to-week. The less-volatile four-week average is a better economic barometer, and that figure rose slightly last week to 339,250.

Economists say weekly claims below 350,000 indicate moderate job growth.

Jobless claims had been trending down since a spike in late March to a four-month high; analysts attributed that spike to the difficulties of making seasonal adjustments around the spring holiday and school break.

The claims data matched the April jobs report, which showed stronger-than-expected labor market growth and a reduction in the unemployment rate to 7.5 percent.

The Labor Department initially reported 323,000 claims for the week ending May 4, which was a new five-year low. That figure was revised up to 328,000, leaving the previous week’s 327,000 as the post-recession low point.