The number of Americans who applied for jobless benefits remained elevated for the third straight week, suggesting some weakening in the U.S. labor market.
Jobless claims fell by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 in the week ended April 21, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 389,000 — the highest level since the first week of January
Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits are at highest level of 2012. Jobless claims total 388,000 in the latest week, the Labor Department says Thursday
Claims, which are an indicator of the pace of layoffs across the country, have edged up for three weeks after hovering near 360,000 in March.
The four-week moving average was 381,750, up from the previous week’s 375,500.
A steady fall in the weekly claims numbers since September has given cheer that the United States is gaining ground in its battle to reduce the high number of those without jobs, currently around 12.7 million.
Economists said the claims numbers rise in the past three weeks does not negate the overall downward trend.
What’s more, a string of recent data suggesting some softening in the economy has raised concerns about whether the recovery will accelerate in the months ahead. A downturn in Europe could hurt U.S. exports, for instance, and higher gas prices could act as a drag.
The economists expressed disappointment at the new numbers but urged to “keep the extent of the rise in perspective,” noting that the four-week average was in tune with job creation data which has continued to improve, albeit at a slow pace.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve, seeing a slight pickup in overall economic growth, improved its projections for the jobless rate at the end of 2012, saying it could fall as low as 7.8 percent from the current 8.2 percent.
A softer tone for the dollar was set Wednesday after the Federal Reserve kept interest rates on hold and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said he remained willing to buy more bonds should the economy need help.
Widespread joblessness continues to present a key challenge to President Barack Obama as he campaigns to retain his job in the November presidential election.