Growing weekly jobless claims for the last two weeks in a row have underlined the weakness of the U.S. employment market.
Initial jobless claims rose 2,000, to 484,000 in the week ended August 7, with a four-week moving average of 473,500, an increase of 14,250 from the previous week's revised average of 459,250, the Labor Department reported Thursday, August 12. Claims in the week of July 31 were originally reported as 479,000 and were revised up this week by 3,000 to 482,000.
Economists' consensus was for August 7 claims totaling 465,000.
The claims level of 484,000 is the highest in five months and is approaching the high of 2010, said Thomas Simons, a Jefferies & Co. money market economist, in an analyst note.
"Today's claims level is much higher than expected, and there were no special factors behind the rise, according to the Labor Department. There is no obvious single explanation for the rise in claims this week, but a number of quirks in the labor market are likely contributing to the overall increase," Simons wrote.
These include elevated claims related to educational workers in New York and New Jersey and elevated claims in the Gulf States, "presumably caused by disruptions in the local economy caused by the oil spill," he said. Also, he added, there might be some sort of takeback in the seasonal adjustment factors from the cancellation of factory shutdowns that caused claims to fall to their lowest levels of the year in early July.
In a later e-mail, Simons noted that the July 22 extension of funding for extended jobless benefits "might be causing some confused people to file for unemployment insurance all over again," which may be why there have been more initial claims.
Read a story about the Labor Department's monthly jobs report for July from the archives of InvestmentAdvisor.com.