Jobless Claims Hit Highest Point in Month

The number of Americans signing up for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level in a month, the government said on Thursday in a report suggesting an ever-weakening labor market.

First-time claims rose to 419,000 in the week ended May 26, up from a revised 411,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department said.

In an indication that the pace of hiring has fallen off, the total number of people continuing to claim benefits reached 2.85 million last week, up from 2.76 million in the prior week. Continued claims are at the highest level since November 1993.

The number of initial claims was the highest since the April 28 week, when they reached 425,000, and was at a level not seen before then since September 1992, when first-time claims reached 438,000.

Analysts had estimated that first-time claims would come in at 405,000.

The closely watched four-week moving average of initial claims, however, fell to 402,500 last week from 404,000 in the prior week. The four-week average smooths out weekly fluctuations and is considered a more reliable barometer of unemployment benefit filings.

The data came a day before the government is set to issue its payrolls report for the month of May. Analysts are looking for the May employment report to provide important clues about the state of the labor market and the economy in general as it wades through murky waters.

Economists polled by Reuters forecast that payroll employment fell 17,000 in May. Analysts also estimate the unemployment rate rose to 4.6 percent in May, up from 4.5 percent in April.