Initial jobless claims jumped 9.4 % to 326,000 for the week ending May 17, according to a Labor Department report released today.

After falling a revised 7.2% the previous week and 7% the week before, this newest report turned the tide with its 28,000-appliation increase. Analysts had expected a rise, but their 310,000 estimate of initial jobless claims proved too low. 

Source: Author, data from Labor Department. 

From a more long-term perspective, a 0.3% decline in the four-week moving average to 322,500 initial claims in the most recent week still points to progress. 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.

The number of people receiving benefits fell to 2.65 million, the fewest since Dec. 1, 2007, when the recession began.

On a state-by-state basis, five states recorded a decrease of more than 1,000 initial claims for the week ending May 10 (most recent available data). California's claims dropped the most (-7,650), due primarily to fewer services layoffs. 

For the same period, Mississippi and Georgia registered increases of more than 1,000 initial claims. Mississippi didn't provide a comment to the Labor Department for its 1,180-initial-claim increase, while Georgia said administrative and support services layoffs were the main reason behind its 1,150-initial-claim rise.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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