The number of Americans filing first-time jobless claims rose significantly last week, a clear indicator the labor market isn’t tightening as often argued. The Labor Department said Thursday that initial unemployment benefit claims rose by 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 313,000 in the week ended Feb. 21.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a significant yet far smaller 290,000 new claim increase.
Jobless claims measure layoffs across the economy and, because of difficulties adjusting for seasonal data, have been artificially hovering near levels last seen during the mid-2000s economic expansion. While the weekly figure is volatile, particularly due to holidays that included Presidents’ Day last week, the four-week rolling average is also pessimistic.
The four-week moving average — which irons out volatility — was 294,500, marking an increase of 11,500 from the previous week’s revised average. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.8 percent for the week ending February 14, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate.