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

More Americans than projected filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, reflecting the difficulty the government has adjusting the figures around the Easter holiday and spring break at schools.

Jobless claims rose by 28,000 to 385,000 in the week ended March 30, the highest since Nov. 24, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 353,000. Before adjusting for seasonal variations, claims fell by almost 1,600.

The Easter holiday falls on different weeks from year to year, making it a challenge to smooth out swings in the data, a Labor Department spokesman said as the numbers were released. Further progress in the labor market that includes a pickup in the pace of hiring depends on faster economic growth.

“We have seasonal adjustment quirks” that have boosted the figures, said Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who correctly projected the number of claims. “Next week, we expect claims to come right back down. The labor market is okay, it’s fine.”

Stock-index futures pared gains after the figures, with the contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in June climbing 0.3% to 1,552.5 at 8:42 a.m. in New York. It had gained as much as 0.5%.

Good Friday

The claims week included Good Friday on March 29 before the Easter holiday, which was earlier than the last four years. Claims for the Virgin Islands and California were estimated, the Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were being released.

The four-week average of claims rose to 354,250 from 343,000.

A report tomorrow from the Labor Department may show employers added 195,000 workers to payrolls in March after 236,000 the month before, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey. The jobless rate is projected to hold at 7.7%.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from claims of 330,000 to 400,000.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 8,000 to 3.06 million in the week ended March 23.

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

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