US jobless claims rise to 380,000, higher than forecast

April 12 (Bloomberg) -- More Americans than forecast filed claims for jobless benefits last week, a sign the pace of improvement in the labor market is slowing.

Jobless claims increased 13,000 in the week ended April 7 to 380,000, the highest since Jan. 28, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey called for 355,000 claims. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those receiving extended payments declined.

A sustained pickup in claims, following last week’s figures showing a smaller-than-projected rise in March employment, may make it difficult to boost the consumer spending that makes up 70 percent of the economy. The figures highlight Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s concern that stronger demand is required to fuel labor market gains.

“On the back of last week’s employment report, this does suggest momentum in labor market is slowing a bit,” said Sean Incremona, a senior economist with 4Cast Inc. in New York, who forecast 372,000 claims, the highest in the Bloomberg survey. “I wouldn’t, though, read one claims report and one payrolls report as suggesting that the trend of improvement has stalled.”

Claims in the prior week were revised to 367,000 from a previously reported 357,000.

Stock-index futures trimmed gains after the figures. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in June rose 0.2 percent to 1,366.5 at 8:35 a.m. in New York, after rising as much as 0.6 percent earlier.

Economists’ Estimates

Estimates of the 46 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 350,000 to 372,000. The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figures, increased to 368,500 last week from 364,250.

A Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released that there was “nothing unexpected” in the latest claims data. Incremona said that this week in particular there’s a lot of volatility in the seasonal adjustment process that played a part because of the Easter holiday.

The total number of people receiving jobless benefits fell by 98,000 in the week ended March 31 to 3.25 million.

In addition to the jobless claims, the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs decreased by about 34,000 to 3.22 million in the week ended March 24.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, held at 2.6 percent, today’s report showed.

Nineteen states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 34 reported a decrease. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

March Employment

The figures follow statistics on April 6 that showed employers added 120,000 jobs in March, half as many as in February and the fewest in five months.

Bernanke, in a speech to economists on March 26, said the recent employment gains have been a “welcome development. Still, conditions remain far from normal, as shown, for example, by the high level of long-term unemployment and the fact that jobs and hours worked remain well below pre-crisis peaks.”

“We cannot yet be sure that the recent pace of improvement in the labor market will be sustained,” Bernanke said, adding he was particularly concerned about the number people out of work for six months or longer.

Adecco Group North America, a division of Adecco SA in Glattbrugg, Switzerland, the world’s largest provider of temporary employees, said demand for workers is accelerating in some fields.

“We do continue to see increases in the healthcare and manufacturing areas,” Janette Marx, a senior vice president at the Melville, New York-based company said in an interview last week. “Those areas definitely have been showing some nice increases.”

Bloomberg News

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