More Americans than forecast applied for unemployment insurance payments last week, another sign the labor market is struggling to improve.
Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly climbed by 6,000 to 386,000 in the week ended June 9 from a revised 380,000 the prior week that was more than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Economists projected claims would fall to 375,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.
A pickup in dismissals may raise concern the labor market will have trouble rebounding after a slowdown in job creation in the past four months. Weaker economic growth and a lack of clarity about the business environment may discourage companies from hiring at a pace needed to speed up the expansion.
“This is a bit of a notch-shift higher with jobless claims,” said Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York. “We’ve seen some disappointing employment reports in May. The labor market is just kind of mediocre right now, not gaining much traction.”
Jobless claims estimates ranged from 370,000 to 385,000 after an initially reported 377,000 the previous week, according to a Bloomberg survey of 49 economists.
Stock-index futures declined after the figures. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in September dropped 0.1 percent to 1,307.5 at 8:39 a.m. in New York.
Another report from the Labor Department showed consumer prices in May fell by the most in more than three years. The consumer-price index decreased 0.3 percent, the biggest drop since December 2008. The so-called core measure of consumer inflation, which excludes food and fuel, rose 0.2 percent for a third month.
The unemployment insurance report showed the four-week moving average of claims, a less-volatile measure, climbed to 382,000, the highest since April 28, from 378,500.
The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits decreased by 33,000 in the week ended June 2 to 3.28 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 decreased by about 135,000 to 2.69 million in the week ended May 26.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, held at 2.6 percent in the week ended June 2, today’s report showed. Forty-one states and territories reported no change in claims that week, while 12 had an increase.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth accelerates.
Employment growth has waned relative to its pace earlier this year, when it hit a high of 275,000 in January. Payrolls increased by 69,000 in May, the fewest in a year, after a 77,000 gain the prior month. The jobless rate rose to 8.2 percent.
“Will there be enough growth going forward to make material progress on the unemployment rate?” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in testimony last week to the Joint Economic Committee. “That’s the essential decision and the central question that we have who look at.”
The Federal Open Market Committee, which sets the course of central bank policy, begins a two-day meeting on June 19. The group may address a cooling expansion, weaker job growth and the financial crisis in Europe.
Companies looking to cut costs amid sluggish growth could add more to the lot of unemployed. Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US), the second-largest U.S. phone company, offered exit packages to 1,700 technicians and call-center workers, a move that may lead to hundreds of job cuts if enough employees don’t volunteer.
Other data show companies may be more optimistic about the labor market. For the first time since 2008, businesses held positive outlooks on hiring in consecutive quarters in all four regions of the country and in all industries, according to a survey by staffing company Manpower Inc. that showed hiring plans should pick up in the third quarter.
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