WASHINGTON – More workers filed new claims for unemployment benefits (search) last week, but even with the increase claims stayed at a level suggesting that the worst of the layoffs seen this year are over.
The Labor Department (search) reported Thursday that for the work week ending Nov. 29, applications for jobless benefits rose by a seasonally adjusted 11,000 to 365,000. Even with the rise, claims have been below the 400,000 mark for nine straight weeks, a sign that the jobs market is turning around, economists say.
New claims hit a high this year of 459,000 in the middle of April and have slowly declined, a development cited by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (search) and other economists who say the pace of layoffs is stabilizing.
Last week's rise in claims occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday week, a time when adjusting for seasonal factors can be difficult and can contribute to volatility in the claims figures, a Labor Department analyst said. Without adjusting for seasonal factors, last week's claims fell sharply.
Economists were forecasting a smaller rise in the number of claims filed last week.
The more stable, four-week moving average of jobless claims, which smooths out week to week fluctuations, rose by a seasonally adjusted 3,000 last week to 362,500, a level that suggested the pace of layoffs is easing.
The number of unemployed people collecting jobless benefits for more than a week increased by 44,000 to 3.39 million for the week ending Nov. 22, the most recent period for which that information is available.
Democrats blame the loss of 2.3 million jobs since President Bush took office in January 2001 on Bush's handling of the economy. But the Bush administration credits tax cuts with helping energize the recovery. Stronger economic growth will eventually lead to meaningful job creation on a sustained basis, administration officials say.
That's what the president is counting on as he heads into his 2004 re-election campaign.
The job market has recently displayed signs of improvement.
Economists believe the economy added around 150,000 jobs in November -- which would mark the fourth month in a row of job gains -- and that the nation's unemployment rate will hold steady at 6 percent. The government releases November's employment report on Friday.