Jobless claims in U.S. rose more than forecast last week

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose more than projected last week, showing scant improvement on the outlook for jobs.

Jobless claims increased 15,000 in the week ended Sept. 8, the biggest gain in almost two months, to 382,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 370,000 claims. Tropical Storm Isaac resulted in about 9,000 applications for benefits, the agency said.

The job market is cooling as a global slowdown and looming U.S. tax policy changes keep businesses hesitant about hiring. Persistent unemployment, a “grave concern” according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, is a focus for policy makers today as they meet to consider whether new steps are needed to boost the world’s biggest economy.

“The labor market continues to be disappointing,” said Guy Berger, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, who projected claims would rise to 380,000. “We’d like to see the hiring side pick up. Companies are very cautious given all the uncertainty.”

Stock-index futures held earlier losses as investors awaited the Fed’s statement on monetary policy. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring this month fell 0.2 percent to 1,436.5 at 8:44 a.m. in New York.

Estimates ranged from 360,000 to 380,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure to 367,000, from an initially reported 365,000.

Producer Prices

Another report from the Labor Department showed prices paid to producers climbed 1.7 percent in August, the most since June 2009 and reflecting a surge in energy costs.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, climbed to 375,000 last week, the highest in almost two months, from 371,750.

Hiring is cooling. Payrolls rose by 96,000 workers in August after a revised 141,000 increase in July that was smaller than initially estimated, the Labor Department said on Sept. 7. Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, rose 103,000 after a revised gain of 162,000.

Today’s report showed the number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 49,000 in the week ended Sept. 1 to 3.28 million.

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

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