Unemployment Claims Climb As Layoffs Surge To Highest Level Since 2011

FIle Photo (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

FIle Photo (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)  (2006 Getty Images)

Freshly released employment numbers show more lows than highs for the U.S. economy.

For the third straight week, the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose.

The weekly applications increased to the highest level since late November to a seasonally adjusted 385,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The gain pushed the four-week average, a less volatile measure, to 354,250.

The bad news did not stop there.

The newest jobless numbers were also accompanied by another report showing that quarterly job cuts have reached their highest level since 2011.

While the nation’s employers reported an 11 percent decline in the total number of job cuts from March to February, future layoffs are expected to continue to rise.

The report from the consultants at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc showed the March job cuts were 30 percent higher than a year ago. This is the marks the second consecutive month and the fourth time in the last six that total job cuts rose higher than the year prior.

Since January, employers have now announced 145,041 job cuts. This is the highest quarterly job cuts number in the last 18 months.

Two areas hit the hardest so far this year with job cuts were retailers and those suffering the ramifications of cost cutting by the government.

“On the hiring front, we saw a significant drop from the first two months of the year,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a press release.

 “While consumer spending is up in 2013, many retailers have been fighting for their lives since the end of the recession,” added Challenger.

Despite the numbers, Challenger also wanted to remind Americans that most employers do not formally announce hiring plans.

“One sector that will continue to see employment gains in the months ahead is business services, particularly in the temporary employment arena,” said Challenger.

“As the economy continues to improve, these temporary workers are likely to transition into full-time employees.”

While the weekly jobless numbers could be another sign companies will start cutting more jobs, economists said they wanted to see more data before concluding the job market's trajectory had changed.

"We suspect the surge in the last two weeks reflects seasonal adjustment problems more than any fundamental change in the trend, but of course that remains to be seen," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, in a note to clients.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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