Jobless claims in U.S. exceed forecast on seasonal shift

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, reflecting an unwinding of adjustments for seasonal swings at the start of a quarter.

Jobless claims increased by 46,000 to 388,000 in the week ended Oct. 13 from a revised 342,000 the prior period that was the lowest since February 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a rise in claims to 365,000.

The typical pattern of large increases in unadjusted claims at the start of the quarter seems to have shifted by a week in one state, causing the adjusted data to become volatile, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released to the press. Through the ups and downs, the level of firings has been little changed, indicating that a lack of hiring is the main reason payrolls have failed to strengthen.

“When you get to the turn of a quarter, the seasonals jump a lot,” said Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who projected claims would claims to 375,000. “The labor market is getting better, but at a glacial pace. Claims are going sideways.”

Stock-index futures extended earlier losses after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in December dropped 0.2 percent to 1,453.6 at 8:48 a.m. in New York.

Survey Results

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 345,000 to 390,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure up from an initially reported 339,000.

Today’s report showed unadjusted claims in California dropped by 4,979 in the week ended Oct. 6. Last week the Labor spokesman said claims typically surge at the start of a quarter as people receiving benefits reapply in order for the government to recertify their eligibility.

In the most recent week, all states reported and none were estimated, the spokesman said.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, rose to 365,500 last week from 364,750. The average number of claims over the past two weeks was in line with the four-week average, indicating little change in the pace of firings outside the seasonal swings.

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 employment report for October will be released on Nov. 2, four days before the presidential election.

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