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Weekly jobless claims tick up unexpectedly

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Last week, the number of Americans filing for first time unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly by 4,000 indicating little change in a gradually improving U.S. labor market. According to the Labor Department's June 12 Unemployment Weekly Claims Report, that brings the seasonally adjusted number to 317,000 for the week ending June 7. This number is higher than the 310,000 expected by economists but when you look at the same week last year it is 20,000 less than the 337,000 unemployed claiming first-time benefits at that time.

Last week's numbers revised up

The prior week's first-time unemployment claims were also revised upward by 1,000 more applications bringing that number to 313,000. However, a Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the state level data.

Four-week average ticks up

While any rise in unemployment can seem disheartening, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits was not enough to change views that the labor market is strengthening. It is important to remember that the four-week moving average offers a better understanding of the underlying labor market conditions because it helps to smooth out the week-to-week volatility. However, that number ticked up, also, by 4,750 to 315,250.

Unemployed receiving benefits following initial week up

The economy is still somewhat stagnant, but has at least recouped the 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession and the unemployment rate has held steady at 6.3 percent. The Weekly Claims Report also showed that the number of people still receiving benefits following the initial week of aid went up 11,000 to 2.61 million for the week ending May 31. Continuing claims reflect how many people are already receiving benefits.

The reason many don't "feel" or "see" the lower unemployment rate is that our current rate of job creation is not enough to put the huge backlog of unemployed Americans back to work yet. Jobs recovery has sputtered along for four years now, and long-term unemployment still remains elevated with 3.5 million people out of a job for six months or more. Economists estimate it may take at least another two years for the job market to reach its pre-recession vigor, when the unemployment rate ran around 4% to 5%.

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