Claims for U.S. unemployment benefits increased more than forecast last week, nearly erasing a slide in the prior two weeks and reflecting the difficulty of adjusting the figures for swings at the start of a year.
Initial jobless claims rose 38,000 in the week ended Jan. 26, the most since Nov. 10, to 368,000, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Economists forecast 350,000 filings, according to the Bloomberg survey median. The increase followed a combined 45,000 drop in the prior two weeks.
“It looks like the underlying trend in claims is just stable at around 360,000, which is where we were for much of 2012,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York, who projected 367,000 filings. “Today’s increase in claims I think is evidence that the low readings from early January were distorted.”
Employers created about the same number of jobs in January as a month earlier, indicating labor market progress is unfolding about at the same pace as it has the last two years, figures tomorrow may show. Faster consumer spending and corporate investment in new equipment at the end of 2012 indicate employers may look past federal budget debates in Washington and add to headcounts.
The swings in jobless claims may reflect challenges the agency has adjusting the data during the holiday period and at the start of quarters. In 2008, claims slumped in the early part of January before rebounding at the end of the month. Claims this month are typical of this volatility, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released.
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