The Labor Department said on Thursday first-time jobless claims rose for the week ending May 23 by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 270,000 last week. A Labor Department analyst said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data.
The four-week moving average of claims — which is widely considered to a better measure of labor market trends, as it irons out week-to-week volatility — increased 5,000 last week to 271,500. The four-week moving average of continuing claims declined 70,250 between the April and May survey periods, which typically indicates a further drop in the unemployment rate from a near seven-year low of 5.4 percent last month.
However, labor force participation continues to be a major driver of falling unemployment, not a solid labor market. The number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid actually rose by 11,000 to 2.22 million in the week ended May 16.
“The State of the Unemployed,” a Harris survey of 1,553 working-age Americans conducted for Express Employment Professionals, found that 40 percent of unemployed Americans have completely given up looking for work.