Unemployment Claims Rise Moderately, Is This An Indication Of The Labor Market Starting To Weak?


 The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose modestly last week, showing no signs that the high credit situation is having a significant impact on the labor market, which remains tight.

Initial claims for state jobless benefits rose 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 198,000 for the week ended March 25, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 196,000 claims for the latest week.

Claims remained very low, bouncing in a tight range despite high-profile layoffs in the tech industry. Economists attribute some of the low levels in claims to the seasonal adjustment factor, a model the government uses to eliminate seasonal fluctuations. They, however, admit that claims are still low despite using alternative methods.

The Labor Department said updated seasonal adjustment factors will be available next month.

With 1.9 job openings for every unemployed person in January, employers are generally reluctant to let go, and laid-off workers can easily find new jobs.

According to an analysis by Goldman Sachs, the tourism and hospitality industry and other service industries are highly dependent on bank loans. Lack of access to credit can also worsen the situation.

Continuing claims rose modestly between the February and March survey weeks. The unemployment rate was at 3.6% in February.

On the other hand, gross domestic product increased at a revised annual rate of 2.6% last quarter, the government department reported in its third estimate of fourth quarter GDP. Economists expect GDP growth not to be revised down. Growth estimates for the first quarter are currently as high as 3.2%.