New jobless claims drop more than expected
Thursday December 18, 8:44 am ET
By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped more than expected last week, but mass layoffs continue amid a recession that appears to be deepening.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for jobless benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 554,000 for the week ending Dec. 13, from an upwardly revised figure of 575,000 the previous week. The new tally was slightly below economists' expectations of 558,000 claims.
One likely reason for the improvement is that the figure was inflated two weeks ago by applicants who delayed filing their claims during the Thanksgiving holiday week, a Labor Department analyst said. The government attempts to account for such volatility with its seasonal adjustments but is not always successful.
Still, the four-week moving average, which smooths out fluctuations, increased slightly to 543,750 claims, the highest since December 1982. The labor force has grown by about half since then.