New jobless claims rose more than expected last week due partly to an increase in layoffs by the automobile industry, while the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits set a record for the 15th straight week.
The U.S. Labor Department said today the number of new claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 637,000, from a revised 605,000 the previous week. That’s above analysts’ expectations of 610,000.
The increase comes after initial claims dropped in four of the previous five weeks, which raised hopes that the wave of layoffs announced earlier this year has crested and that the recession was nearing a bottom.
A department analyst said most of the increase was due to auto layoffs. Economists estimate Chrysler LLC has laid off 27,000 workers in the wake of its April 30 bankruptcy filing. General Motors Corp. has said it will temporarily shut 13 factories beginning later this month through July, potentially affecting 25,000 workers.
Still, many economists expect the downward trend in jobless claims to return once the impact of the auto industry’s job cuts has passed.
Also today, the department said wholesale prices climbed 0.3 percent last month, larger than the 0.1 percent gain economists had expected. The biggest jump in food costs in more than a year offset a second monthly decline in the price of energy products.
Even with the larger-than-expected gain last month, wholesale prices over the past year have fallen 3.7 percent, the biggest 12-month decline since 1950. While falling prices can raise fears about deflation, economists believe the efforts by the Federal Reserve to combat the recession will prevent a dangerous bout of falling prices.
In another sign of labor market weakness, the tally of people continuing to receive benefits increased to 6.56 million from 6.36 million, setting a record for the 15th straight week and worse than analysts expected. The continuing claims data lags initial claims by one week.
The large number of people on the jobless benefit rolls is a sign that unemployed workers are having difficulty finding new positions.