World Economy

US Joblessness Expands

US Joblessness ExpandsUS Joblessness Expands

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose more than projected during the Christmas week, reaching the highest level in almost six months, perhaps reflecting typical swings during holidays.

Jobless claims jumped by 20,000 to 287,000 in the week ended Dec. 26, a report from the Labor Department showed on Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 270,000. Applications haven’t been this high since the week ended July 4, the American Independence Day holiday.

While there was nothing unusual in the state-level data, the jump could have been caused by the volatility introduced when the numbers are adjusted for seasonal variations, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released to the press. Limited firings, steady hiring and an unemployment rate at more than a seven-year low underscore job market improvement that allowed the Federal Reserve to lift interest rates this month for the first time since 2006.

No states estimated data last week, according to the Labor Department. Before adjusting for seasonal variations, the increase in claims last week was about typical for this time of year, the agency spokesman said. The seasonal adjustment, however, wasn’t anticipating the increase, the spokesman added.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for weekly jobless claims ranged from 259,000 to 287,000. The previous week’s figure was unrevised at 267,000.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly claims numbers, increased to 277,000 last week from 272,500.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 3,000 to 2.2 million in the week ended Dec. 19. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.6%. These data are reported with a one-week lag.