WASHINGTON — Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits jumped in the March 23 week, rising 16,000 to a more-than-expected 357,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The department also revised the historical series for claims, based on the new seasonal factors it released for the new calendar year.

The initial claims level in the March 16 employment survey week was revised up to 341,000 from the previously reported 336,000 level. Expectations for this week's report was for an initial claims level of 338,000.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no estimates or anything unusual in the state level data, with all states reporting on time.

Seasonal adjustment factors had expected an uptick in unadjusted claims of just over 1,000 (+1.4%) in the March 23 week. Instead, unadjusted claims rose 4.9%, or 14,706, to 315,657. That level is still below the 323,373 reported in the comparable week a year ago.

The state data released for the March 16 employment survey week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in just 9 states and declined in 44 states, with no states unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

Following a decrease the prior week, the initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average rose, up 2,250 to 343,000 in the March 23 week.

The 4-week moving average is still down 24,000 compared to a month ago, and given that this figure smoothens out the week-to-week volatility usually seen in the initial claims level, continues to bode well for labor market conditions.

The level of continuing claims came in at 3.050 million after seasonal adjustment in the March 16 employment survey week, a decline of 27,000 from the previous week.

In a survey week comparison, continuing claims are down 52,000 vs. the Feb. 16 survey week (3.102 million).

The level of unadjusted continuing claims continued its decline, plunging 82,403 to 3,379,090 in the March 16 survey week, below the 3,699,473 level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment remained unchanged at 2.4% in the March 16 survey week, below the seasonally adjusted 2.7% rate in the comparable week a year earlier.

The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is well below that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are
approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and labor force reentrants included in the monthly report.

The Labor Department said that the level of unadjusted Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits claims jumped to 1,906,324 in the March 9 week, an increase of 125,481.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 5,455,757 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the March 2 week, up by 86,750 from the previous week, but well below the 7,158,470 persons in the comparable week a year ago. These data are not seasonally adjusted, and include regular state claims, federal employee claims, new veterans claims, the EUC and extended benefits programs, state additional benefits, and STC/Workshare claims.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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