Unemployment Claims Rise Again

The number of Americans filing for unemployment rose unexpectedly last week, dampening Wall Street’s ebullience over a five-day run-up in the Dow Jones.

The U.S. Labor Department reported this morning that 484,000 initial claims for benefits were filed last week, a rise of 24,000 from the week ending April 3. It was the second week in a row that filings increased, a sign, economists say, that companies are still reluctant to hire.

The jump surprised forecasters who were predicting a decline to about 430,000 new filings.

“We’re not making rapid progress.” said Neal Soss, chief economist at Credit Suisse Holdings USA Inc. in an interview. However, he suggested the Easter holiday may have played a role in the increase.

That was the explanation from the Labor Department. An unnamed official quoted in various reports, said, “Volatility is always associated with the Easter holiday.”

“This is more attributable to administrative factors than to possible layoffs. I did not see anything in the states’ numbers that would reflect economic concerns,” he said.

Still, the report showed that more people were receiving benefits. The number for the week ending April 3 rose to 4.64 million, from 4.57 million. The report runs a week behind the initial claims numbers. It doesn’t include the number of individuals receiving extended benefits — the subject of current debate in Congress over funding a continuation of the program. The last count of those whose state-provided benefits have run out and are now receiving federally funded unemployment is 5.97 million.

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