Jobless claims in U.S. rose more than forecast in holidays

More Americans than forecast filed claims for unemployment insurance payments last week, according to government figures that were estimated because some state agencies closed during the holidays.

Applications for jobless benefits increased 10,000 to 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 29, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Economists forecast 360,000 claims, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. A report from the ADP Research Institute showed companies added more workers than projected in December.

“The underlying claims trend is still really low,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida. “There’s a lot of volatility this time of year. Job destruction is really not a problem right now, it’s really hiring that’s the issue.”

The four-week average of claims, a less volatile measure, was little changed, indicating employers held on to current staff at the end of 2012 even as Congress made little progress in budget talks. The deal passed by lawmakers this week averted tax increases on about 99 percent of households while failing to reach a bargain on spending and debt.

The data today from the Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Research Institute indicated the job market finished 2012 with momentum. The 215,000 increase in employment was the group’s largest since February and followed a revised 148,000 gain the prior month that was larger than initially reported.

Shares Fall

Stocks fell as concern that yesterday’s rally may have been overdone offset the better-than-projected reading from ADP. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index declined 0.2 percent to 1,459.51 at 9:48 a.m. in New York. The 500 Index surged 2.5 percent yesterday, the biggest one-day jump since December 2011, after Congress passed the bill averting tax increases and government spending cuts slated to take effect this year.

Another report showed consumer sentiment last week reached an eight-month high, reflecting broad-based gains that indicated even wealthy Americans were less concerned about tax increases and fiscal policy challenges heading into 2013. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to minus 31.8 in the period ended Dec. 30, its highest since April, from minus 32.1 a week earlier.

For the year, the index climbed 12.9 points, the biggest annual improvement since 1998. Americans earning $100,000 or more reported their most optimistic reading in more than two years.

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