New jobless claims fell slightly last week while the number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose, a sign the
job market’s recovery will be long and bumpy.
While most economists believe the recession has ended, they predict
the jobless rate will keep rising until at least next summer as the country struggles to mount a sustained recovery.
The Labor Department said today that the number of laid-off workers applying for benefits dipped to 570,000 last week from
an upwardly revised 574,000. That was a weaker performance than the drop to 560,000 claims that economists expected.
The number of people receiving jobless benefits totaled 6.23 million, up 92,000 from the previous week, which had been the
lowest level since early April. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected that number, which lags new claims by
a week, to fall to 6.13 million.
Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a gauge of layoffs
and an indication of companies’ willingness to hire new workers. First-time claims have trended down in recent months and
are well below the recession’s high of 674,000 hit in the first week in April. But even with the improvement, they are running
at levels well above the 325,000 mark considered a sign of a healthy labor market.
The Labor Department tomorrow
will release a report on the employment picture in August. Many economists believe it will show the jobless rate rose to 9.5
percent, up from 9.4 percent in July, but that the number of layoffs slowed to 225,000, from 247,000.
adviser Christina Romer said last week that unemployment could reach 10 percent this year and some private economists are
forecasting it will hit 10.3 percent next summer before starting to improve. But Vice President Joe Biden issued an upbeat
report card on the economy today, saying that the massive stimulus program had been more effective "than we had hoped."
The recession, which began in December 2007 and is the worst since World War II, has eliminated a net total of
6.7 million jobs.
The Labor Department report showed that the four-week average of initial jobless claims edged
up to 571,250 last week, compared with 567,250 the previous week. Even with the rise in continuing claims to 6.23 million
for the week ending Aug. 22, that four-week average dipped slightly to 6.22 million. The large number of people remaining
on the rolls indicates that unemployed workers are having a hard time finding new jobs.