Weekly jobless claims, or the number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment rose for the week ended Jan. 31, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.
First-time claims for state unemployment benefits increased 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000 for the week ended Jan. 31, while claims for the week ended Jan. 24 were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists had forecast claims rising to 290,000 last week.
Claims have been volatile in recent months because of difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal variations. For instance, last week’s huge decline was largely fueled by the holiday and other factors. But the four-week moving average of claims — which is considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility — fell 6,500 to 292,750 last week.
Last week’s data will not impact Friday’s employment report for January because it falls outside the survey period. According to payroll processor ADP, U.S. job creation slowed last month, as the private sector added just 213,000 jobs in January, missing economists’ expectations. Further, a gauge of service sector growth in the U.S. came in stronger than expected in January, but 8 industries reported contraction.
Still, according to a Reuters survey of economists, non-farm payrolls are expected to increase by 234,000, down from 252,000 in December. While it would be the longest stretch of job gains above 200,000 since 1994, the government’s methods have come under fire this week. In an attempt to explain why the American people aren’t feeling the economic football spike that Washington politicians and Wall Street bankers claim, Gallup’s CEO Jim Clifton explained how the unemployment rate measured and reported by the Labor Department “amounts to a Big Lie.”
“There’s no other way to say this,” said Clifton. “The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.”
As Clifton explained, the government considers an individual who clocks in a minimum of one hour of work in a week and was paid at least $20, as employed. Meanwhile, the percentage of those with a good job in the U.S. is at a staggeringly low rate of 44 percent, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid edged up 6,000 to 2.40 million in the week ended Jan. 24. That is a concerning number considering the low number of eligible Americans, as well as the number of long-term unemployed who later dropped out of the labor force.