Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- More Americans than forecast filed for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the labor market is taking time to gain traction.
Applications for jobless insurance increased 2,000 in the week ended Nov. 19 to 393,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Economists forecast 390,000 claims, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The number of people on unemployment insurance rolls rose and those receiving emergency benefits declined.
A sustained drop in firings is needed to set the stage for an acceleration in payroll growth and to maintain the pace of consumer spending, which accounts for the biggest part of the U.S. economy. An unemployment rate stuck near or above 9 percent for more than two years puts pressure on President Barack Obama, lawmakers and the Federal Reserve to foster job gains.
“The job market is slowly improving, but I think that the pace of economic expansion is still remaining subdued,” Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit, said before the report. “I’m not really looking for a big improvement in the trend in claims anytime soon.”
Claims estimates ranged from 375,000 to 400,000 in the Bloomberg survey of 47 economists. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s figure to 391,000 from an initially reported 388,000.
The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figures, dropped to 394,250, the lowest level since April, from 397,500.
The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits increased by 68,000 in the week ended Nov. 12 to 3.7 million. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of workers receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments fell by about 7,400 to 3.5 million in the week ended Nov. 5.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, held at 2.9 percent in the period ended Nov. 12, today’s report showed.
Forty-five states and territories reported a decrease in unadjusted claims, while eight had an increase.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.
Some companies have added workers heading into the holiday shopping season, when some retailers bring in as much as 50 percent of their annual revenue.
“We have done a good job of hiring the people that we said we’re going to hire, and we continue to look for a few key jobs” in online sales, Laura Alber, chief executive officer of Williams-Sonoma Inc., said in a Nov. 17 conference call with analysts.
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