Seasonal Factors Slow Jobless Claims

The number of Americans lining up for first-time unemployment benefits declined last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday in a report skewed by seasonal factors but still showing a labor market shaken by the Sept. 11 attacks. 

The closely watched four-week moving average hit a high unseen in almost a decade. 

Initial jobless claims fell by 67,000 for the week ended Oct. 6, to a seasonally adjusted 468,000. The department attributed the decline to seasonal factors designed to suppress increases in claims typical at the beginning of the quarter. 

Unadjusted data showed that the number of initial claims, already higher than usual, posted a smaller-than-expected rise of 26,130 claims to 426,525 for the week. 

Despite the decline seen in the seasonally adjusted figures, the report still showed a weakened labor market. 

The four-week moving average, considered a more reliable barometer because it irons out fluctuations in the volatile weekly report, rose to 463,000 from 455,000. That was the highest level in nearly ten years, when the United States was still struggling out of a recession. 

``The four-week moving average is still up, but its nice that it didn't breach the 500,000 mark,'' said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. 

The number of workers remaining unemployed rose by 98,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.48 million for the week ended Sept. 29, the most recent week the data were available. That was the highest level since June 1, 1991, when these so-called continued claims hit 3.551 million, the department said. 

``Clearly still the layoffs are resulting in people filing new claims,'' Hoffman said, but he noted that the rise wasn't as large as in the last week of September. 

According to the report, many states cited layoffs directly linked to the Sept. 11 attacks as the reason for increases in first-time jobless claims. For the week ended Sept. 29, the most recent week the data were available, 15 states reported an increase of more than 1,000 initial claims.