Jobless claims rise by 9k

WASHINGTON – More Americans than forecast filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments last week, showing companies are less confident about the expansion than they were earlier this year.

Applications for jobless benefits increased 9,000 in the week ended June 18 to 429,000, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The level of claims exceeded the highest estimate in a Bloomberg News survey in which the median projection called for 415,000 filings. The number of people on benefit rolls was little changed, while those getting extended payments rose.

Unemployment claims have swelled after dropping to an almost three-year low at the end of February, indicating businesses may be reluctant to hire until demand strengthens. The data underscore Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s comment Wednesday that job growth is “frustratingly slow,” a reason policy makers pledged to maintain monetary stimulus.

“The numbers still remain elevated, and they’re still consistent with a labor market that’s improving at a glacial pace,” said Brian Jones, an economist at Societe Generale in New York. “This fits in with Bernanke’s view that the labor market improvement is just not enough.”

Estimates for first-time applications ranged from 400,000 to 425,000 in the Bloomberg survey of 47 economists. The Labor Department initially reported 414,000 claims in the prior week. The data coincide with the week the government surveys employers every month for the monthly jobs report. It is scheduled to issue June employment count on July 8.

A Labor Department official said Thursday as the figures were released that claims in six states had to be estimated because of “technical problems” related to computers. Those states included Ohio, Mississippi, Oregon, New Hampshire and Washington, as well as the Virgin Islands.

The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure, held at 426,250.

The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits dropped by 1,000 in the week ended June 11 to 3.7 million. Economist forecast 3.67 million continuing claims. The figure does not include the number of workers receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments increased by about 68,000 to 3.95 million in the week ended June 4.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, held at 2.9 percent in the week ended June 11, Thursday’s report showed. Thirty-five states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 18 had a decrease.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth — measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report — accelerates.

After improving at the beginning of the year, labor market conditions have deteriorated. Payrolls grew by 54,000 workers last month, the smallest gain in eight months, after increasing by 232,000 in April, Labor Department data showed June 3. The jobless rate rose to 9.1 percent, the highest since December, from 9 percent.

Fed officials Wednesday lowered their projections for employment, predicting the jobless rate will average 8.6 percent to 8.9 percent in the final three months of 2011, compared with 8.4 percent to 8.7 percent projected in April.

The banking industry cut 11,400 jobs in the first five months of this year, 21 percent more than in the same period in 2010, according to data compiled by Chicago-based Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc.

Total job reductions in the banking industry this year “might very well” be more than double 24,000 jobs cut from the sector in 2010, John Challenger, the chief executive officer of the group that advises companies on workplace reductions, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News on June 21.