More Americans than forecast file for jobless benefits

June 21 (Bloomberg) -- More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, indicating the labor market continues to struggle.

Jobless claims decreased by 2,000 to 387,000 in the week ended June 16, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 383,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, climbed to the highest of the year.

The level of dismissals may raise concern the slowdown in payrolls reported in the past few months will be prolonged, limiting consumer spending. Federal Reserve policy makers yesterday expanded a program to replace short-term bonds with longer-term debt in a bid to spur growth and trim a jobless rate that’s exceeded 8 percent for 40 consecutive months.

“Momentum is slowing,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York, the only economist in the Bloomberg survey to correctly forecast the level of claims. “Companies have curtailed demand for labor. This means less income growth. That’s a restraint on consumer spending.”

Stock-index futures were little changed after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in September rose 0.1 percent to 1,351.8 at 8:41 a.m. in New York.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 371,000 to 390,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure up to 389,000 from an initially reported 386,000.

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The four-week moving average increased to 386,250, the highest since the week ended Dec. 3, from 382,750.

Last week included the 12th of the month, which coincides with the period the Labor Department uses in its survey of employers to calculate monthly payroll growth. The four-week average for the May survey week was about 10,000 lower, indicating little progress this month. The employment report for June will be released on July 6.

Payrolls in May expanded by 69,000 workers, the slowest pace in a year, and have cooled each month since January. The jobless rate, which climbed to 8.2 percent in May, has been stuck above 8 percent since February 2009.

Today’s report showed the number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits was little changed at 3.3 million in the week ended June 9.

The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

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