The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 283,000 in the week ended Oct. 18, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Though claims remain near fourteen-year lows, the unexpected rise is the latest sign of uncertainty in the labor market. The report showed slightly weekly jobless claims above the 282,000 claims forecast by economists in a survey by The Wall Street Journal.
Claims for the previous week were also revised up by 2,000 to 266,000, which was previously reported as the lowest level since April 2000. The Labor Department said there were no special factors impacting the data.
There is some reason for optimism. The four-week moving average for initial claims, which irons-out week-to-week volatility, actually fell 3,000 to 281,000. However, the low numbers are indicative of a sick labor participation and employment-to-population ratio. In other words, many experts believe the number of weekly jobless claims were falling in large part due to the number of long-term unemployed and discouraged workers, who are simply no longer eligible for benefits.
This is come evidence that could be used to argue either way.
The report also showed the number of people filing continuing claims for unemployment benefits fell 38,000 to 2.35 million for the week ended Oct. 11, but the figures are reported with a one-week lag.
Adjusted for population growth, the number of claims reflect a labor market that has become less dynamic over the last few years. Employers have become less likely to lay off workers, though they have also grown more cautious about hiring new ones.
Administration allies say the sluggish jobs recovery since the recession has picked up this year, and point to payrolls that have expanded an average 227,000 a month through September. While these number would put 2014 on track to be the strongest year of job growth since the late 1990s, most economists believe the amount of idled labor remains dangerously high by historical standards and obfuscates the truth. The nation’s unemployment rate is reportedly 5.9 percent, but many of those who do have jobs are stuck in part-time employment, which the government still counts as employed.
The Labor Department report on jobless claims can be accessed at: http://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf