Initial jobless claims increased 4% to 336,000 for the week ending Aug. 17, according to a Labor Department report released today.
After dropping a revised 3.6% the previous week to what was a 6-year low before revision, this newest report puts initial claims at similar levels to early August. Analysts had expected an increase, but their 329,000 estimate proved too optimistic.
From a more long-term perspective, a 0.7% decrease in the four-week moving average to 330,500 initial claims marks the sixth straight week of declines in that number and the lowest for the average since November 2007. Both the latest week's claims and the four-week average fall significantly below 400,000, a cutoff point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.
On a state-by-state basis, just two states recorded decreases of more than 1,000 initial claims for the week ending Aug. 10 (most recent available data). California knocked around 4,100 initial claims off its tally due to fewer layoffs in the service industry, while Ohio gave a nod to fewer manufacturing layoffs as the primary push behind its 1,550-claim drop. Not a single state registered an increase of more than 1,000 initial claims.
The overall unemployment rate fell to a 4½-year low of 7.4% last month, down from 7.6% in June. That's still well above the 5% to 6% range associated with a normal economy.
-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.