More Americans than forecast filed jobless claims last week

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, adding to concern the labor market is slackening.

Jobless claims decreased by 3,000 in the week ended Sept. 15 to 382,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 375,000.

The presidential election and looming tax increases and government spending cuts slated to take effect next year, should lawmakers fail to act, may block any pickup in hiring following last month’s smaller-than-projected gain in payrolls. The Federal Reserve last week undertook a third round of asset purchases in a bid to reduce joblessness that has held above 8 percent for more than three years.

“The problems are more on the hiring side than the layoffs side,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, who projected a rise to 385,000 claims. “If they panic and start cutting workers, that would raise an immediate red flag because layoffs would be a recipe for another recession.”

Stock-index futures held earlier losses after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in December fell 0.4 percent to 1,446.8 at 8:43 a.m. in New York as economic data from China to Japan and Europe increased concern a global slowdown is worsening.

Survey Results

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 360,000 to 390,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure to 385,000 from an initially reported 382,000. Last week’s data covered the period surveyed by the government to calculate the September employment data.

A Labor Department spokesman said there was nothing unusual in the state data last week. States and territories that reported an increase in claims as a result of Tropical Storm Isaac two weeks ago, including Louisiana and Puerto Rico, didn’t indicate the weather had any influence last week, the spokesman said as the data was released to the press.

The spokesman also said there was no indication the teachers strike in Illinois had any influence.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, climbed to 377,750 last week from 375,750.

Today’s report showed the number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 332,000 in the week ended Sept. 8 to 3.27 million.

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

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