Weekly Jobless Claims Surge Unexpectedly

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Initial jobless claims (search) surged unexpectedly last week by 43,000, taking claims to their highest level since late September, a government report showed on Thursday — but an official noted there were seasonal adjustment difficulties.

The number of Americans making first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits (search) rose to 364,000 in the week ended Jan. 1, up from a revised 321,000 in the previous week. It was the largest one-week gain since a 62,000 jump in the week ended March 30, 2002, the Labor Department (search) said.

Wall Street economists' had forecast initial claims to rise to 331,000 from the originally reported 326,000 in the week ended Dec. 25, 2004.

A Labor Department analyst said the rise was pumped up more than expected because season adjustments were unable to account for the holiday-shortened week, and, as always, he urged observers to look at the four-week average.

The closely watched four-week moving average, viewed as a better gauge of the labor market's health because it smooths weekly volatility, also rose, climbing to 333,000 from 332,250 in the prior week.

The number of people who remained on the benefit rolls after claiming an initial week of aid advanced 61,000 to 2.84 million in the week ended Dec. 25, 2004, the latest for which figures are available.