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WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits rose last week as the recovery of the nation's battered labor market proceeds in fits and starts.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of new jobless claims rose to 480,000 last week, up 7,000 from the previous week. That was a worse performance than the decline to 465,000 that economists had expected.
The four-week average for claims, which smooths out fluctuations, did fall, dipping to 467,500, the 15th straight decline, viewed as an encouraging sign that the labor market is gradually improving. The four-week average is now at its lowest point since late September 2008, the period when the financial crisis was hitting with full force.
Unemployment claims have been on a downward trend since this summer. That improvement is seen as a sign that jobs cuts are slowing and hiring could pick up as soon as early next year. But the rise in weekly claims of 7,000 last week, which had followed an increase of 19,000 the previous week, shows that the improvement has been halting.
Economists closely monitor jobless claims, which are considered a key gauge of the pace of layoffs with continuing claims viewed as an indication of how quickly laid off workers are getting new jobs.
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